The World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) determined COVID-19 was a pandemic because of its propagation rate in March 2020. It caused a major upheaval in education systems (Mouza, 2021). Around the world, 184 countries shifted their education systems to distance education (Ministry of National Education [MoNE], 2020a).
MoNE first canceled international and national meetings, workshops, and symposiums planned for schools as a precaution (MoNE, 2020b). Then, after giving a 2-week break, the Ministry announced classes would be held synchronously (online) through the Educational Information Network (EBA, Eğitim Bilişim Ağı in Turkish). More than 1,600 courses and over 20,000 interactive lessons were presented to students through EBA. Along with EBA, the Turkish Radio and Television Cooperation (TRT), EBA TV, also supported the distance education process by providing course and topic reviews, as well as practice exam questions. In addition, question-answer sessions for students preparing for national high school and university entrance exams were provided (MoNE, 2020c).
Türkiye was among the two countries (the other one was China) that nationally and instantly transitioned to online education in March 2020 (MoNE, 2020d). This meant 18 million students enrolled in kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools needed to adapt to this compulsory transition. This extensive and national compulsory transition came with problems: students’ access to high-speed Internet and electronic devices (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, and computers), parents’ responsibilities as professionals working at home and supporting their children’s homeschooling, and teachers’ online education readiness. To overcome students’ difficulties in accessing the Internet, the Ministry signed contracts with GSM operators (EBA, 2019). In addition, the Ministry provided nearly 400,000 tablets with 25 GB of internet access to the students without additional application procedures to provide equal opportunity (MoNE, 2021).
Many scholars agreed that one of the best ways to cope with the education during COVID-19 pandemic was distance education (Hartshorne et al., 2020; Moreno & Gontazar, 2020; Telli Yamamoto & Altun, 2020). However, teachers’ distance education readiness was a major problem encountered in the transition. Even before the pandemic, teachers’ need for technology integration was evident (Hartshorne et al., 2020; Sarı & Akbaba-Altun, 2015). Research reported that teachers around the world were not ready and had little experience with distance education (Lemay et al., 2021; Moreno & Gortazar, 2020; Sepulveda-Escobar & Morrison, 2020; Sintema, 2020; Sykes, 2020; Toquero, 2020; Varela & Desidero, 2021).
For instance, exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Zambian schools, Sintema (2020) reported that teachers needed to adapt their teaching strategies to distance education and needed additional support for preparing their students for national exams. In the Philippines, Toquero (2020) reported that teachers needed innovative strategies for the online education transition. Exploring Chilian preservice teachers’ perspectives on online education during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sepulveda-Escobar and Morrison (2020) reported that teachers faced challenges such as the sudden transition to distance education and a lack of direct interaction with learners. Varela and Desidero (2021) also reported that preservice teachers in the US were not ready for the transition to distance education and needed additional support for crisis scenarios like the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. Mouza (2021) also stressed the importance of preparing in-service teachers for online and blended learning for crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar attempts to explore the teachers’ readiness for distance education were made in the Turkish context (Altıntaş-Yüksel, 2021; Aytac, 2021; Bavlı & Kortel, 2022; İpekoğlu & Ulusoy, 2022; Sarı & Saralar Aras, 2022; Ugur-Albayrak & Erdogmus, 2022; Yurtbakan & Akyıldız, 2020). Studies focusing on teachers’ perceptions and experiences during compulsory distance education were conducted with primary teachers (Sarı & Saralar Aras, 2022; Ugur-Albayrak & Erdogmus, 2022; Yuksel, 2021; Yurtbakan & Akyıldız, 2020), social science teachers (Seyhan, 2021), early childhood teachers (Aktan Acar et al., 2021), mathematics teachers (İpekoğlu & Ulusoy, 2022) and science teachers (Bakioglu & Cevik, 2020; Bakırcı et al., 2020; Ünal & Bulunuz, 2020).
One explored the opinions of teachers in different grade levels (preschool, primary, secondary, and special education), Aytac (2021) reported that the teachers did not receive any formal training to deal with the sudden transition to distance education. However, they developed their online teaching skills by experiencing different platforms (EBA, Zoom, Hangout, etc.). Teachers and teacher candidates worldwide spoke with similar voices regarding the compulsory transition to distance education. They were not equipped for this sudden transition, but they were willing to adapt to new normal for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studies exploring science teachers’ difficulties with distance education have revealed that they had limited online science content activities available and they could not conduct hands-on laboratory activities in addition to the general problems of distance education discussed previously. Moreover, students showed unwillingness to join discussions during synchronous science courses. Science teachers expressed the need for professional development programs for enhancing their skills (Bakioglu & Cevik, 2020; Bakırcı et al., 2020; Ünal & Bulunuz, 2020).
The Differences Between Public and Private Schools in Türkiye
According to the MoNE Statistics Department (MoNE, 2022a), there are more than 18 million students enrolled in public and private schools in Türkiye. There is a centralized education system that is orchestrated by the Ministry of National Education (Council of Higher Education [CoHE], nd). Compulsory education lasts 12 years and includes two stages: Primary and secondary education. Primary education includes children aged 6 to 10, from Grade 1 to Grade 4, and middle school, children aged 10 to 14, from Grade 5 to Grade 8. Finally, secondary education comprises high school education, ages 14 to 17, or Grade 9 to Grade 12.
Turkish primary and secondary education is offered to students in two ways: Public and private schools. Private schools comprise approximately 20% of total schools (MoNE, 2022b). While all public schools are free of charge, private schools charge an annual fee. In this respect, it can be assumed that the income levels of the families in the private schools significantly differ.
Approximately one and a quarter million teachers work in public and private schools (MoNE, 2022a). Teachers working in public schools are placed through a central examination known as Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS in Turkish), while teachers working in private schools are selected based on their performance. Teachers are contracted, and their contracts are renewed every year. Most teachers working in private schools are paid the minimum wage determined by the government. In this manner, they are less paid than their counterparts working in public schools (Çolakoğlu & Toygar, 2021), resulting in a discrepancy between the teachers’ working conditions in private and public schools.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were differences in how distance education was delivered in public and private schools. The regulations that were implemented (e.g., EBA portal and TRT EBA TV) were mainly used by public schools during distance education, while private schools implemented their own distance education programs (Aytaç, 2021). Besides, adopting different distance education programs, the working conditions, wages, and other work conditions (e.g., free time, rest, safe working conditions, and access to health services) provided to teachers, were different in the private schools (Çolakoğlu & Toygar, 2021).
However, even with these differences student achievement in private schools was high. Based on the TIMMS 2011 data, Sulku and Abdioğlu (2015) reported that mathematics achievement scores of students in Turkish private schools were higher when compared to their public counterparts. As a consequence, private school teachers’ distance teaching practices are important. Existing literature has explored public school science teachers’ teaching practices and difficulties with distance education (Bakioglu & Cevik, 2020; Bakırcı et al., 2020; Ünal & Bulunuz, 2020), only one study explored both public and private school teachers’ perceptions (Aytaç, 2021). Further, no studies were conducted with science teachers working in private school settings. Consequently, we believe it is necessary to understand how science teachers working in private schools perceived compulsory distance education. In this study, we specifically explored the following research question: What were Turkish private school science teachers’ perceptions about distance education during COVID-19?
An explanatory case study approach was utilized in this study. This method provides a rich, in-depth description and analysis of a bounded system, while allowing researchers to thoroughly investigate the research topics within its real-life context (Merriam, 2014; Yin, 2014).
Four science teachers, one male and three female, voluntarily participated in the study. Teachers with teaching experience of 5 years or less were categorized as early career, or novice, teachers. Teachers with more than 5 years were categorized as expert teachers (Gallant & Riley, 2014; Mockler, 2018). Based on these categories, all four of our participants were expert science teachers. All the teachers had worked at the current private school for at least 3 years and more. Their teaching experience at that private school ranged from 3-9 years.
All the teachers identified stated they had children. Three (T2, T3, and T4) had one child, and one (T1) had two children at the time of data collection. All teachers taught middle school students (Grades 5 to Grade 8); two (T1 and T3) taught seventh-grade students (age 12), T4 taught sixth-grade students (age 11), and T4 taught fifth-grade (age 10) and eighth-grade (age 13) students. All the teachers taught science courses for middle schools in Türkiye. They also all taught science applications and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes, which were MoNE approved elective courses. Students select the elective courses based on interest. Teachers’ characteristics are presented in Table 1.
|Teacher ID||Teaching Experience||Working in the Present School||Marital Status||No. of Children||Course||Grade Level|
|T3||17||7||Married||One child||Science applications||7|
The data were collected through semistructured interviews. While there were some demographic questions (work experience, age, prior experience in distance education, and undergraduate courses about distance education), other questions focused on the distance education transition process, the efficiency of distance education, the effects of distance education on students and their perceived difficulties as well as their suggestions. The questions were based on the literature exploring teachers’ perceptions and opinions about the distance education process during COVID-19 (e.g., Acar et al., 2021; Bakioğlu & Çevik, 2020; Bakırcı et al., 2020; Ünal & Bulunuz, 2020; Yurtbakan & Akyıldız, 2020). An expert in science education reviewed the interview questions and provided feedback for clarity and understandability. Additionally, three science teachers read the final form of the interview questions.
The individual interviews were held in a private office, recorded and transcribed verbatim. The interviews lasted 20-30 minutes.
Data Analysis and Trustworthiness of the Study
The collected data were analyzed by using the content analysis method. Each researcher read the Word documents separately and coded the data independently. Emergent codes were categorized based on the research question, and codes were grouped under subthemes. To ensure a consensus on the analysis framework, intercoder reliability was calculated. The percentage agreement between researchers was found to be 90%, indicating that the analysis framework was compatible between the researchers. For ensuring validity, direct quotations of participants were used. Member checking and audit trail were other measures used for ensuring the trustworthiness of the data analysis (as in Merriam, 2014).
This study explored the perceptions of science teachers working at private schools about distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings are presented with respect to themes revealed in the study.
Teachers’ Prior Experiences With Distance Education
All teachers indicated that they had no prior experience with distance education before the COVID-19 pandemic. They were asked whether they had courses related to distance education during their undergraduate education. All teachers stated that they had had courses related to computer use, but they did not have any specific course about distance education during their undergraduate education.
Teachers’ Transition to Compulsory Distance Education
We aimed to investigate how teachers working in private schools made the transition to distance education. All four teachers stated that they received additional training for distance education during the pandemic.
- “We received formal training when we transited to distance education. The school’s IT team provided additional courses for us.” (T1)
- “I received training provided by a university about distance education and pedagogical tools used in distance education during the pandemic.” (T2)
- “The IT department team organized necessary training and provided support for us in all matters about distance education.” (T3)
As seen from these quotations, the private school has a special information technologies (IT) department, and the technicians in this department provided additional training for the teachers working at the schools. Most Turkish private schools do not have such departments. However, the private school in our case did.
The stages of the transition process were explained by T1 as follows.
We first used lecture videos found in the artificial intelligence-based web portal of the school at the beginning of the pandemic. But these videos did not enrich the teaching environment as face-to-face teaching and did not meet students’ needs. Thus, we transited to the Zoom platform where the courses were held synchronously. (T1)
T4 further explained, “We used the Zoom platform and our school K12 portal during distance education. Our school provided access to these platforms.” (T4)
The teachers at our study site used other platforms apart from the EBA portal and TRT EBA TV. It can be concluded that while teachers working at public schools used the EBA portal for synchronous courses and TRT EBA TV for retention and repetition of courses (asynchronous courses), teachers at private schools used different private distance education portals.
Teachers’ Perceptions of Distance Education
Teachers in this study had positive opinions about the distance education period. For instance, T2 explained,
I am not pessimistic about online education. Because I think this is a situation that changes depending on how much the materials we use attract the attention of the students. For instance, a teacher using the Socratic lecture technique cannot get enough efficiency from online education. On the contrary, I had an effective and efficient online education process by using various programs that can attract the attention of students correctly and appropriately.
T4 said, “Along with the institutional conditions provided to us, our teaching during online education was very productive.”
These teachers’ statements indicated that the private school supported their teaching by providing training for distance education and distance education materials. They had positive experiences with distance education; being productive, effective, and efficient. In addition to these perspectives, T3 still insisted on the necessity of face-to-face instruction: “Even though it [distance education] was effective, it was not as productive as face-to-face instruction academically, because, in my opinion, nothing can replace face-to-face education.”
In general, the teachers’ statements reflect a positive and effective teaching environment during distance education. However, they had different opinions about the effects of distance education on students. The themes revealed from teachers’ responses are presented in Table 2.
Teachers’ Opinions About the Effect Of Distance Education on Students
|Theme||Teacher ID||Sample Quotations|
|Adaptation||T1, T4||Students had adaptation problems during this compulsory transition. (T1)|
They were easily distracted due to their inability to spend accumulated energies. (T4)
|Individual differences||T2, T4||I do not think that distance education has the same effect on all students. While some students need more kinesthetic, and tactile teaching or direct eye contact, some students can focus on the screen completely and can learn effectively during online education. (T2)|
|Health-related issues||T3, T4||There were many difficulties that the students encountered: Their eating habits changed, and they were not able to do any sports. They became inactive in front of the screen which caused posture and eye disorders. (T3)|
|Relationship with peers||T3, T4||Their relationship with peers weakened due to the fact they attend the courses online in their home environment. (T4)|
They [referring to the students] became asocial due to time spending more time on screen.(T3)
|The decline in academic achievement||T2, T3, T4||Their academic achievements declined as well. (T3)|
The academic achievement of students differed based on their learning preferences. (T2)
As shown in Table 2, teachers reflected similar concerns about the effects of distance education on students. While three of them (T2, T3, and T4) cited a decline in the student’s academic achievement due to being online all the time during the pandemic, two of them cited health-related problems (posture disorders and eye disorders). Their students’ relations with their peers were also affected inversely, and the individual differences in students’ learning were not taken into consideration during distance education.
Teachers’ Perceived Difficulties During Distance Education
Teachers encountered a variety of difficulties during distance education. We grouped their difficulties into four categories: context-related, student-related, parent-related, and technological issues related problems.
Teachers’ Context-Related Teaching Problems
Teachers taught at their homes during the pandemic due to the school closure. Teachers perceived a variety of problems while teaching at their own homes. Working at home required one teacher (T1) to create an office in her home, and she reported the difficulties of being a mother while working.
I experienced several problems since the education process was in the home environment. Since my home also became my workplace, I had to use one of my rooms as an office for work. Besides, I had problems because my baby wanted to be with me all the time. Emotional responsibilities caused dilemmas for me.
The same difficulties of being a parent were voiced by other teachers as well:
- “I had difficulties while working from home. For instance, I have a child who was going to kindergarten along with my cat at home. So, I had various orientation problems while working at home.” (T2)
- “I, myself, am a parent at the same time. While I was teaching in one of the rooms of my house, my own child was having online courses in a different room. I had difficulty in terms of providing support for her during online courses.” (T3)
Apart from parent responsibilities, one teacher (T4) also emphasized the emotional burden of being at home on her “psychologically.” She said, that “being at home all the time has had a negative impact on me.”
Teachers’ Student-Related Problems
Teachers faced a series of difficulties with respect to their students during online courses. Their difficulties are presented in Table 3.
Student-Related Problems Perceived by Teachers
|Loss of motivation||T2, T3, T4|
|Lack of attention||T1, T2, T3|
|Lack of implementation||T1, T2, T3, T4|
|Lack of communication||T1, T3|
All teachers expressed their concerns about the lack of experimentation during online courses; for example,
- “Students could practice during science courses, which led to limited experience. I had problems in terms of students being not so active during courses because we could not hold proper experiments during online courses.” (T1)
- “The fact that the experiments could not be done online caused difficulties.” (T3)
Lack of motivation and attention was another common problem that the teachers encountered during online courses.
- “The biggest difficulty in the online education process was the students’ lack of motivation and their reluctance due to being at home.” (T2)
- “The fact that their parents were there where they attend the course distracted students. (T3)”
- “The home environment caused difficulties for students due to the presence of different stimuli that distracted the children.” (T1)
Also, two teachers indicated that a lack of communication between students and teachers was another barrier they encountered during online courses. T1 stated, “It was difficult to communicate when there was a digital distance without touching the children physically and cognitively.” One last student-related problem was student inappropriate behaviors, as expressed by T4: “I encountered some students’ behaviors, such as closing the camera, muting microphone, or turning up the volume, which disrupted the course.”
Teachers’ Parent-Related Problems
Another aspect the teachers faced during online courses were parent related. While one teacher indicated that he did not have any problems with parents, the rest of the teachers indicated they had parent-related problems during online courses. All the teachers indicated the parents’ attendance in courses with their children caused a major problem for them. For instance, T2 stated,
The most critical point was the parent. I think the involvement of parents in online courses caused problems. For example, some eavesdropped on the child or eavesdropped on the teacher during online courses, and after the course, they asked their children, “Why didn’t you answer the question?” or “Why did your teacher warn you?”
Another teacher said the parents’ fear and anxiety levels were high.
Teachers’ Technology-Related Problems
During the compulsory distance education period, teachers were faced with technology-related problems. These problems were explored under two subthemes, student related and teaching portal related. Teachers expressed two major problems with technology. First, they said their students had difficulties either with internet access (e.g., low internet speed) or computers (e.g., being unable to send e-mails or limited use of teaching portals) that hindered the online courses.
The second was the teachers’ own difficulties encountered during online courses. They experienced technical issues, such as access to teaching portals, computer-related (e.g., old computers), and sudden internet disconnections. Table 4 summarizes these subthemes and the corresponding teachers experiencing them.
Teachers’ Technology-Related Problems
|Student-related||Internet access||T1, T2, T3, T4|
|Computer-related||T1, T2, T3, T4|
|Teaching portal-related||Technical issues||T3, T4|
|Computer-related||T1, T2, T3|
|Internet access||T2, T4|
All the teachers said that their students used internet connection and computer-related problems as excuses when they were unable to send their homework on time:
- “Students use computer-related problems as an escape and excuse for not submitting their assignments.” (T1)
- “Students did not submit their assignments on time by citing internet access problems.” (T2)
In addition to these student problems, the teachers expressed their range of problems as follows:
- “Receiving emails from students, reaching these emails on time, and following up on the assignments that were not submitted on time via the teaching portal made the process difficult.” (T4)
- “I had some technical problems at the beginning of the process [referring to distance education].” (T3)
They also referred to computers being old-fashioned and having updating problems as factors affecting their teaching.
- “I had difficulty connecting to the internet with the computers provided to us by our school. If the new generation of computers and hardware were provided to us before entering this process [referring to distance education], online education would be more efficient.” (T1)
- “I had updating problems with computers and tablets.” (T2)
Last, internet access was also a major problem reported by teachers:
- “I had problems such as internet disconnection and not being able to connect during online courses.” (T4)
- “I experienced difficulties such as disconnection from the course and disruption of the course flow because of internet disconnection.” (T2)
Teachers’ Perceived Difficulties While Teaching Science
During the compulsory distance education period, the science teachers also faced problems while teaching science. All teachers voiced similar problems. We categorized their difficulties under three themes: Decreasing academic achievement, less hands-on science for learning, and giving and controlling assignments. For instance, one teacher said,
Using an active learning approach during science courses also affects the academic achievement of students. However, we could not use active learning during online education which resulted in superficial science teaching and decreased academic achievement when I compared the academic achievement of students in previous years. (T4)
Another teacher complained,
This period [compulsory distance education] passed almost without any science experiments. I mean, teaching science means making experiments and making abstract things concrete. I think we lost this chance during distance education. (T2)
T1 voiced similar concern and indicated that parents could have been helpful in this process, but they failed to do so:
I believe that science experiments help students to actively participate in and learn science themselves. However, we could not do it during distance education. Parent involvement would be very helpful at this point. However, they could not provide enough support to students because of not able to shop for the materials used in the experiments.
Besides not being able to shop, T3 indicated a similar parent-related problem:
While teaching science, we usually do hands-on experiments. During distance education, our parents [parents of students] also did not go out for shopping the materials used in science experiments and did not want their houses to get dirty. We could not get enough support from parents during this time.
One last problem the teachers indicated was related to writing and drawing on the screen. As Turkish middle school students take a national placement test at the end of eighth grade to choose which high schools they will attend, and science questions are part of this placement test, the teachers need to prepare their students for this placement test. As a result, they frequently use multiple-choice tests. Some questions in these tests required basic calculations (such as adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing, or comparing the test items, i.e., x < y or y > z). The teachers often expressed the need to write or draw sample problems on the screen:
It was very difficult to write and draw on the screen in the questions which required calculations. Also, it was very difficult for students to make calculations, and their writing could not be read on the screen properly. As a result, checking their homework was very challenging for me. (T2)
Teachers’ Suggestions for Improving the Quality of Distance Education
In the last part of the interview, the teachers made suggestions for improving the quality of distance education. Their suggestions fell into five themes: infrastructure, the need for improved computers, hybrid teaching, a different teaching portal, and parent involvement in the process. See Table 5 for sample excerpts of these themes.
All teachers expressed the need of improving the technology infrastructure. Hybrid teaching, receiving face-to-face and online instruction as a mix was suggested by two teachers. Some of the teachers faced difficulties using the online portal, leading two teachers to suggest improvements to the teaching portal. Finally, one teacher suggested the importance of parent involvement during the distance education process.
Teachers’ Suggestions for Improving the Quality of Distance Education
|Theme||Teacher ID||Sample Excerpt|
|Infrastructure||T1, T2, T3, T4||There must be an infrastructure. I mean internet connection etc. To carry out the process efficiently, the infrastructure and facilities should be provided to all students and teachers in all education units. (T2)|
I think that computer and technical equipment should be renewed as an institution. (T3)
|Hybrid teaching||T1, T3||I think that distance education can only be improved by adopting a hybrid system. The permanence of the lesson can be increased by hands-on in addition to online courses. (T1)|
|Teaching portal||T1, T4||Students can be tracked through a system other than e-mail. (T4)|
|Parent involvement||T4||Parents need to follow the online education process more closely in terms of ensuring the efficiency of the process. (T4)|
Discussion and Conclusion
This study explored the perceptions of science teachers who are working in a private school about distance education. The results revealed that the teachers were not familiar with distance education before the COVID-19 period, a finding is consistent with other studies (e.g., Altıntaş Yüksel 2021; Aytaç, 2021; Bakioglu & Cevik, 2020). Most of the teachers in this study used the school’s teaching portal rather than the government EBA platform. This finding shows a divergence from emerging literature, since most studies reported that Turkish teachers used the EBA portal and EBA TV for teaching purposes (e.g., Bakioglu & Cevik, 2020; Bakirci et al., 2021, Ugur-Erdogmus & Albayrak, 2022; Sarı & Saralar Aras, 2022; Unal & Bulunuz, 2020).
Supporting this difference, Aytac’s (2021) study reported that while both groups used the EBA teaching portal, the teachers working in private schools also used private educational institution TV platforms and education portals. Even though not very common, other platforms such as WhatsApp, YouTube, Zoom, and Skype were reported to be used by teachers (Altıntaş Yüksel, 2021; Aktan et al., 2021; Ugur-Erdogmus & Albayrak, 2022; Ünal & Bulunuz, 2020).
The difference in preferring different teaching portals might be related to the fact that some private schools have better technology infrastructure, and they are more decentralized in terms of governance. In addition to using different teaching portals, the teachers in our study frequently stated that their school had an IT department that has professional technicians who could support them. The teachers said the school IT department provided training about online education. This helped the transition process, then the IT department provided support when they needed assistance. Having an IT department was a special case for this private school.
Teachers in this study believed that the distance education period was effective and efficient in terms of teaching. Existing studies exploring the effectiveness of teaching during distance education have reported conflicting results. Some studies reported that distance education was efficient (e.g., Hebebci et al., 2020), while other studies reported that it was not (e.g., Aktan et al., 2021; Bakırcı et al., 2021).
Few teachers reported that the teaching process was efficient and enriched in terms of materials. In a study conducted with science teachers, Bakırcı et al. (2021) reported that science teachers believed the objectives of the science curriculum were not achieved with online education, implying the ineffectiveness of distance education. A possible explanation is the teachers in these studies were working in public schools, whereas the teachers in our study were working in private schools.
A second explanation could be related to the teaching platforms used during distance education. The teachers working in public schools primarily used the EBA teaching platform, while the teachers in this study used their school’s own teaching portal. As Hebebci et al. (2020) pointed out, distance education can be effective when appropriate sources are provided. In this sense, the teaching platform that was used during online courses by teachers might be one reason for teachers’ effective teaching practices.
However, the teachers believed that science teaching requires the active participation of students, which was hindered during distance education. They reported that students lost attention and motivation during online science courses easily. Also, the lack of communication between students and teachers hindered their teaching. They said the distance education period had effects on students, like the decline in academic achievement, adaptation, communication, and health-related problems in addition to peer relationship problems. These findings are consistent with Bakırcı et al.’s (2020) and Bakioglu and Cevik’s (2020) findings. For instance, Bakırcı et al. (2020) reported that science teachers indicated similar student-related motivational problems during online science courses.
Science teachers also reported in this study that they could not conduct hands-on science experiments that were useful for making abstract science concepts concrete. In this sense, the findings of this study echoed prior literature. For instance, both Bakioglu and Cevik (2020) and Ünal and Bulunuz (2020) reported that science teachers were mostly unable to conduct hands-on science experiments during online science courses. Even though these studies were conducted with science teachers working in public schools, we found similar findings with our teachers working in a private school. All these findings showed that both public and private school science teachers faced similar problems with science experiments and activities during online science courses.
Finally, some teachers in our study indicated that writing and drawing science questions was difficult, as most science questions required calculations. Solving science questions is required for science courses in Türkiye, as middle school students have to take a national placement test at the end of eighth grade, thus making test preparation difficult during online science instruction. Previous studies did not report such a finding. The teachers in this study also faced context difficulties during online instruction. The teachers indicated that teaching at home challenged their responsibilities as parents, which was worrisome for some teachers. The literature exploring teachers’ perceptions of distance education usually did not focus on the context-related features such as being a parent and a teacher at home at the same time.
The teachers reported that both they and their students encountered technology-related problems. Technology-related problems for teachers and students were commonly reported in the literature (e.g., Bakioğlu & Çevik, 2020; Hebebci et al., 2020; İpekoğlu & Ulusoy, 2022; Sarı & Saralar Aras, 2022; Uğur-Erdoğmuş & Albayrak, 2022). The studies reported common findings, as the lack of sufficient infrastructure (e.g., computer, tablet hardware, and other equipment such as microphone or camera used in online education) and Internet access are two major factors that hindered the distance education during COVID-19.
One last difficulty reported by the teachers in this study was parent-related difficulties. Actually, all teachers acknowledged the role of parents in distance education. However, the way that the parents were involved in online courses created problems for teachers. The literature reports that families did not provide sufficient support for their children during online courses (Aytaç, 2021; İpekoğlu & Ulusoy, 2022; Sarı & Saralar Aras, 2022; Uğur-Erdoğmuş & Albayrak, 2022). In line with this finding, the teachers in our study also insisted that the parents had critical importance during the online courses. Science teachers in this study reported that, since the parents could not get the required materials for science experiments or did not want their homes getting dirty, the students could not make science experiments at home, which hindered hands-on science teaching.
A similar concern was found in the studies conducted with science teachers working in public schools (Bakioğlu & Çevik, 2020; Bakırcı et al., 2021). Science teachers acknowledge the importance of making experiments during science courses (Bakırcı et al., 2021). To overcome this difficulty, some teachers used the EBA platform to watch science experiments, used simulations, or wanted their students to conduct the experiments in their homes (Bakioğlu & Çevik, 2020). Still, simulations or watching experiment videos online do not exactly correspond to hands-on science experiments.
This study explored four science teachers’ experiences with distance education who were working in a private school. The results revealed that science teachers’ experiences were similar to their counterparts working in public schools, although we also found some differences. While this study was a case study focusing on science teachers working in a private school, teachers in other departments might be included in the data collection to reveal the role of the teaching platform and the effectiveness of distance education. This study was planned as a case study focusing on the science teachers of one private school. Future research could increase the number of private schools or include different campuses of the same private schools to extend the findings to a larger context. A further recommendation could be to study the teaching platform used focusing on teachers’ specific experiences while using different online education platforms.
We would like to thank the participating science teachers.
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