Location

Session 1: Room 4

Start Date

24-2-2023 10:00 AM

End Date

24-2-2023 10:50 AM

First Presenter's Brief Biography

Karin Fisher earned her Ph.D. in special education from the University of Central Florida. She is currently an associate professor of Special Education at Georgia Southern University. She has almost 20 years of experience in education, split between higher education and teaching students with disabilities in public schools. She is a faculty advisor for the Student Council of Exceptional Children (SCEC) and the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group. She is president of the Georgia unit of the CEC. She is the Bylaws Chair for the Georgia Council of Learning Disabilities. She has mentored several undergraduate research assistants, presented her work at many international conferences, and provided professional development for teachers and faculty worldwide.

Presentation Type

Concurrent Session

Presentation Description

In 2020, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on Georgia’s educational systems. Schools closed, and many continued providing education through virtual platforms. It is well-known that students with disabilities struggled during the pandemic; however, their teachers' experiences are unexplored. As a result, we conducted a mixed-methods study to document their experiences.

Conference Strands

Technology

Rationale

Special education teachers experienced benefits and concerns for their students during the pandemic. We found five categories in our data, three of which concerned technology. Themes emerged under the benefits of online teaching, including knowledge of parental involvement, connecting with the families, and students learning new technology skills. Teachers saw some of their students mature, overcome online learning challenges, and become more engaged online than in person. Of particular interest, many reported discrepancies in technology access based on students' socioeconomic status. Many special education teachers reported their students lacked resources, specifically access to technology, the internet, or family support. According to Bushweller (2020), the technology/equity issue worsened during the pandemic, and some educators even lacked high-speed connections. Even though the U.S. Department of Education (2020) stated special education teachers must meet their legal obligations, many teachers struggled even if technology was a barrier. Within the category of student concerns, teachers reported feeling overwhelmed by online teaching with the continuous changes and increased responsibilities. They felt unsupported by their schools, districts, and politicians and needed to be provided more training to teach online. They struggled to support IEP accommodations, meet state requirements, and keep students engaged while teaching online. Teachers felt they were not meeting the needs of their students and voiced concerns about their student’s mental health. The literature is scarce on the experiences of special education teachers during the pandemic, but we were able to relate our findings to some previous research. For example, Rice (2022) found some special education teachers reported increased parent engagement due to video conferencing. They reported that some students’ communication improved through chats and email while developing their technology skills. Middleton (2020) stated teachers consistently indicated they were not prepared to teach online, had concerns about remote schooling, and had difficulty doing their jobs. Furthermore, researchers stated teachers of students with disabilities experienced exhaustion and a lack of support from their administrators and districts (Melloy & Murry, 2022; Womack & Monteiro, 2022; Rice, 2022). The teachers in Bushweller's (2020) article stated they are spending more instructional time on problem-solving technology issues than teaching. Teachers experienced the most difficulties during hybrid learning in the spring of 2021 (Rice 2022). Cormier and Fischer (2022) found special education teachers experience anxiety and depression at higher levels than normal U.S. prevalence rates during the pandemic. Furthermore, researchers found teachers taught fewer new materials, particularly in high-poverty schools (DeWitt, 2020; Herold & Yettick, 2020). This can be related to Melloy and Murry (2022) correlating lack of technology access and skill to a student’s socioeconomic status. Chen (2022) found low socioeconomic guardians had difficulty overcoming the challenges of online learning, so many families struggled to aid their children in online learning. These studies highlight the connection between socioeconomic status and academic performance through a lack of resources and familial support.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Edie, Adia, and Laura are undergraduate students enrolled in a VIP research class called, "Education for All."

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Feb 24th, 10:00 AM Feb 24th, 10:50 AM

The Experiences of Georgia Special Education Teachers During the Pandemic

Session 1: Room 4

In 2020, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on Georgia’s educational systems. Schools closed, and many continued providing education through virtual platforms. It is well-known that students with disabilities struggled during the pandemic; however, their teachers' experiences are unexplored. As a result, we conducted a mixed-methods study to document their experiences.