Review by Dr Jeffery Quaye

National director of education and standards, Aspirations Academies Trust

25 Feb 2024, 5:00

Book

Teachers and teaching post-Covid: Seizing opportunities for change

By Katy Marsh-Davies and Cathy Burnett

Publisher

Routledge

ISBN 10

103239949X

Published

23 Nov 2023

The impact of Covid on the education of pupils continues to occupy the minds of educators and policymakers. Central to this is the focus on returning to pre-Covid standards while providing equitable and inclusive access to education.

But before one starts to imagine what education should provide post-Covid, the concern of how the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities in terms of health, employment and education cannot be overlooked. The significant disruption in schooling across the globe has resulted in a long-term negative consequence for young people’s future chances. Yet even under this dark shadow, educators are attempting to leverage the positives to improve teaching and learning.

In Teachers and Teaching Post-COVID: Seizing Opportunities for Change, Katy Marsh-Davies and Cathy Burnett feature a wide range of international perspectives and academic research relating to the important lessons of the pandemic and the many leverage points for improvement.

The book is divided into four main themes relating to and learning in a post-covid world. The first focuses on the challenges and opportunities for teachers’ professional identity and agency amid uncertainty and complexity. The second examines the pedagogic implications for curriculum, assessment and digital technologies, and fostering meaningful and inclusive learning for all. Third, the book investigates the emotional and relational dimensions of teaching and learning and how teachers can support their pupils’ wellbeing as well as their own. The fourth discusses the possibilities and limitations of collaboration and innovation in the post-Covid era.

The tragedies of the pandemic prompt the book’s contributors to reimagine education in a post-Covid world and what the implications for professional learning could be for the sector. Reading it, I recalled participating in the RSA’s ‘rethinking education’ debate on new approaches to curriculum and assessment and whether a fundamental shift is needed in curriculum and assessment to build a more equitable and inclusive education. No consensus arose from that debate, and the same could be argued about this book.

The message of resilience and creativity during the pandemic gleams throughout

Nevertheless, it was pleasing to read the extensive research and varied practitioner voices here examining very pertinent issues from early years to higher education and setting our struggles within a global context.

The authors argue that within ‘neoliberal marketised education systems’, the development and nurturing of teachers’ professional autonomy and the cultivation of a culture of care and empathy have been overlooked in recent years. They note that “we have witnessed, globally, high rates of teacher attrition, poor teacher mental health, low job satisfaction, and burnout”.

Perhaps some of these issues are already being addressed here through the work resulting from the Department for Education’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy, which was rolled out in 2019. Either way, the message of teacher resilience and creativity during the pandemic gleams throughout.

But what you won’t find here is a clear path forward. For example, the authors suggest that “the inflexibility of pre- and post-COVID-19 teaching presents a barrier to women accessing reasonable workplace adjustments to manage menopause symptoms”. But in the later chapter about ‘teaching through menopause’, I was surprised to read that “teachers are significantly more likely to find flexible work arrangements unsuitable since they make them feel disconnected from the workplace”. Is this a problem with the education system?

The pandemic has created momentum behind developing new working practices in education. Like every other sector however, it’s on us as leaders to ensure these opportunities don’t result in teachers feeling hindered by them – in their professional or personal lives.

The main limitation of this book relates to some sections of that utilise research methodology with a small and unrepresentative sample size of the teaching workforce. This means that some findings would be difficult to generalise.

Teachers and teaching post-Covid concludes with a reflection on the future of teaching and learning and the implications for policy and practices. The authors propose that we explore “how Covid has changed the social role of a teacher, and individual teachers find consonance with this”.

I don’t doubt for a minute that we all are. And if this book doesn’t offer a roadmap with a clear destination, it’s at least a comprehensive look at the lay of the land.

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