BOSTON – Teacher optimism has fallen to pre-pandemic levels, according to new research out today from learning technology company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). In its 2021 Educator Confidence Report, an annual barometer, now in its seventh year, for how educators on the front lines in schools across the country are feeling about the state of teaching and learning, only 38 percent of educators reported a somewhat or very positive view of the state of their profession – down from 49 percent in 2020. Even more, 37 percent of educators reported thinking the pandemic would increase respect for teachers this year, a significant decrease from 63 percent in 2020.
Still, while teachers are navigating the challenges spurred by the pandemic, the report also reveals rising confidence in mastery and benefit of learning technologies and an unwavering commitment to student well-being.
Educational Technology: From Promise to Proof
HMH's research, conducted in May with YouGov, surveyed more than 1,200 K-12 classroom teachers and 150+ administrators, and found an increase in teachers feeling very or extremely confident using educational technology in 2021 (66 percent), compared to 50 percent in 2020, likely due to the well-documented increase in day-to-day use of technology to connect students and teachers regardless of learning environment.
Now that teachers have the confidence to use previously new and intimidating technologies, there is consensus that these pain points of the past year have a bright side, as 77 percent believe technology will help them be better teachers post-pandemic. Additionally, 56 percent of educators reported the improved ability of students to access instructional content anytime, anywhere, reinforcing the value of technology for K-12 education, and giving educators and parents alike the peace of mind that progress is being made regardless of how and where the student is engaging.
“We’ve entered a new era where edtech’s potential has been unlocked at an exponential rate over the past year,” said Jack Lynch, CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “The future of the classroom is high-tech and high-touch. We have an opportunity to experience the ‘best of both worlds’—to continue to use technology purposefully, for differentiated instruction, workflow, practice and more, while also benefiting from the social gathering provided by school communities and that is so critical to student well-being.”
Emotional Well-being of Students is Top Concern
In light of the emotional and mental strain students have faced over the past year of schooling, the majority of teachers (58 percent) are concerned that students will have increased social-emotional issues going into the fall.
However, there is agreement that by acknowledging and incorporating strategies to address social-emotional challenges, educators can get students back on track. Not only do 56 percent of educators believe resources to support SEL in the classroom will be most critical post-pandemic, but 82 percent agree that a well-crafted, fully integrated SEL approach makes an impact on outcomes.
“For the third straight year, we’ve seen SEL as a top priority for teachers, likely in anticipation that more students will have more critical needs in this area,” said Francie Alexander, Chief Research Officer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Teachers are already hard at work finding solutions and developing strategies that will address student well-being.”
The Classroom of the Future: A New Era
There are lessons to be learned from the past year of teaching, and the classroom that students and teachers return to this fall will not be the same as how they left it. 96 percent of teachers think teaching and learning will be at least modestly changed compared to before the COVID-19 crisis— 55 percent think these changes will be significant. Which begs the question: How will it be transformed?
Online assessments will likely become a more widespread tool, as 73 percent of teachers reported using them this year, up from 49 percent in 2020. Additionally, we can expect a rise in the number of educators who prefer digital materials; digital versions of print materials (43 percent) and videos (40 percent) were the most effective digital materials teachers reported using.
Additional key findings from the seventh annual Educator Confidence Report include:
- When it comes to returning to in-person instruction, teachers are most looking forward to the intangible aspects of being in a classroom with students. 81 percent of teachers reported most looking forward to interacting with students face-to-face, while 74 percent are looking forward to more student engagement and 64 percent to student collaboration opportunities.
- Many teachers expressed the need for greater compassion from parents. When asked what they need most from students’ families, 34 percent say they need acknowledgement that they are doing their best, while another 31 percent say they need more understanding from parents that the priority is their child.
- Teachers agree that digital platforms and tools enable them to do their job better. But how? There is a close tie amongst respondents, with 43 percent reporting it allows them to streamline assessment and 42 percent saying digital platforms and tools enable them to communicate more effectively with students.
- According to teachers, the top three things that would transform learning and teaching in the future are:
- Customized learning for every student that zeros in on what a student knows and what they need to learn next (80 percent)
- Technology solutions that connect instruction, including supplemental and remediation, and assessment on one platform (75 percent)
- Greater investment in closing disparity issues (56 percent)
- Almost 7 in 10 teachers reported that targeted instructional materials or resources would be the most helpful in addressing learning gaps from an interrupted school year. Meanwhile, a majority of teachers also believe that tutoring (57 percent) and supplemental resources (54 percent) will be helpful in tackling disruptions from the past year.
About the Educator Confidence Report
The Educator Confidence Report is an annual independent study, distributed to a diverse national cross section. The seventh annual survey content was crafted and analyzed by learning company HMH and YouGov. YouGov programmed and hosted the survey with sample sourced from MDR's (Market Data Retrieval®) educator database. The administrative group included school principals, superintendents, curriculum heads and chief technology and chief information officers. Teachers from across the K-12 spectrum completed the survey. Math, science, social studies, English language arts and literacy, in addition to general classroom teachers were represented.
Learn more about the 2021 Educator Confidence Report here.
About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (NASDAQ: HMHC) is a learning technology company committed to delivering connected solutions that engage learners, empower educators and improve student outcomes. As a leading provider of K–12 core curriculum, supplemental and intervention solutions and professional learning services, HMH partners with educators and school districts to uncover solutions that unlock students' potential and extend teachers' capabilities. HMH serves more than 50 million students and 3 million educators in 150 countries. For more information, visit www.hmhco.com.
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SVP, Corporate Affairs