Preliminary Findings Suggest Virtual Institute A Success

 The 2020 Cohort celebrating the end of virtual teacher training at the ATC 2020 Summer Institute.

The 2020 Cohort celebrating the end of virtual teacher training at the ATC 2020 Summer Institute.

Preliminary findings of research conducted by a team of researchers from Auburn University suggest the Arkansas Teacher Corps (ATC) 2020 Summer Institute was a success despite an unprecedented 100% virtual format. Fellows in the 2020 cohort reported an overall high level of self-efficacy–particularly in their ability to manage the classroom–and named personal development, relationship-building, and cultural competence as strengths of the virtual institute.

The report from Dr. David T. Marshall, assistant professor of educational research, and doctoral student Deja Trammell summarizes trends from surveys and interviews conducted after institute last fall. Organized into five sections, the report addresses programmatic changes in response to COVID-19; mentor, director, and staff experiences; Fellow experiences; teacher self-efficacy during the first year; and long-term program development.

During a typical year, the seven-week summer institute is held on-site at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark. to provide ATC Fellows a practicum experience teaching summer school in partnership with Blytheville School District. Due to COVID-19, however, the 2020 institute was held virtually via Zoom, which meant Fellows had little opportunity to interact with summer school students.

Instead, Fellows taught mock lessons to their peers in small groups of 4-5 led by a mentor teacher. These mentor groups provided Fellows a support network and an opportunity to continuously receive immediate feedback during their mock lessons. Feedback loops in mentor groups allowed for more frequent and personal feedback than in previous institutes.

The lower-stress environment also allowed Fellows to more intentionally focus on their pedagogy and learn from trial-and-error without the burden of worrying about student needs in the moment, a process one individual described as “failing forward”.

“I think teachers really got the opportunity to really focus on what it means to plan well and what it means to practice being a teacher before actually being in front of students,” said one individual.

Another added, “They could fail in these procedures, get feedback, and figure out like, okay, next time this is what I need to do, and I can do this better. I think that alleviated a lot of stress for our fellows…”

Although institute staff were concerned the lack of student interaction would cause fellows to struggle with classroom management, 2020 Fellows reported feeling most confident with their ability to manage the classroom. Using a 7-point scale, Fellows reported their sense of self-efficacy in three sub-domains based on the Teacher Sense of Efficacy survey: classroom management (6.19), student engagement (5.83), and instructional strategies (5.60).

Read the full report below for a summary of all preliminary findings, or click here to open as a PDF.

You might also want to check out Dr. Marshall’s findings from the ATC 2019 Summer Institute with Sarah Woods, M.Ed., ATC Fellow and Mentor Perceptions of Coaching, and his recent article with Dr. David M. Shannon and Dr. Savanna M. Love, How teachers experienced the COVID-19 transition to remote instruction.