This study will further the field's understanding of the role that science teachers play in adapting their instruction during a public health crisis, how they address emergent ideas throughout the unfolding of the pandemic, and the impacts that the pandemic has had on science teachers themselves.
Science Teachers as Public Health Educators: How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Reshaped the Roles and Experiences of K-12 Science Teachers?
When a global health crisis emerges, students at all levels turn to their science teachers for information and, at times, reassurance, according to researchers at Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI). Science teachers serve a critically important public health function and become an important part of the nation’s response efforts. Since 2020, tens of thousands of science teachers in the United States have helped students grapple with the reality of SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19. This includes not only supporting the emergent scientific learning opportunities, but also functioning as public health educators and advocates in the midst of the global pandemic. HRI explored the early role of science teachers during the pandemic with a prior RAPID project, which demonstrated that science teachers were engaged in a wide variety of educational activities with students related to the pandemic and public health education. However, now nearly two years into the global pandemic, there are a number of new topics that have arisen to explore with respect to science education, including vaccines and long-term immunity that were not able to be assessed early in the pandemic. This study will further the field's understanding of the role that science teachers play in adapting their instruction during a public health crisis, how they address emergent ideas throughout the unfolding of the pandemic, and the impacts that the pandemic has had on science teachers themselves.
The research will build on the prior RAPID award (#2027397) and return to the sample of science teachers studied in that context. HRI will collect survey data to explore the following questions: (1) How does the pandemic continue to influence teachers’ science instruction (for example, instructional time, instructional strategies), and how has that influence shifted? (2) How has teaching about COVID evolved? What new topics (for example, vaccines) have they taken up in the context of COVID? (3) What factors now exert the greatest influence on science teachers’ teaching about COVID, and how do those differ from the factors at play in the spring of 2020? (4) What are the impacts of the pandemic on science teachers themselves, including manageability of workload, opportunities for professional growth/development, physical/mental wellness, and job satisfaction? Using the Theory of Planned Behavior, the survey will be constructed to identify factors that predict whether teachers take up the topic. The survey will also collect data about how teachers address the virus and its transmission with their students. HRI will disaggregate survey data by school-, class-, student-, and teacher-level variables to identify patterns in student opportunities. Survey data will be supplemented by interviews with 50 survey respondents to gather more in-depth information related to the constructs of interest. Study findings will be immediately shared through a preliminary report that focuses on the survey data; presentations and dissemination through practitioner and research organizations; and policy briefs to the CDC and NIH to acknowledge the role of science teachers as public health advocates and encouraging those agencies to make resources available to science teachers to support this role.