Beyond lip-service: Investigating teacher educators’ pursuit of inclusive practice during COVID-19

O'Neill, Kevin | $35,364

British Columbia Simon Fraser University 2021 SSHRC

As a community of practice, Canadian teacher educators are committed to equity and inclusive practice; yet their programs, policies and teaching methods have tended to reproduce long-standing inequities, favouring students who live in urban centres, are able-bodied, neurotypical, wealthier, and have more flexible schedules. The COVID‑19 pandemic challenged teacher educators to rapidly adapt to remote teaching, and simultaneously made them more aware of inequities among their students which remote teaching might exacerbate. These inequities call for scholarship to inform policies, professional development and practical insights that will enable more equitable and inclusive practice among teacher educators and allow them to go beyond lip service to their ideals. We argue that the pandemic can serve as a unique opportunity to rethink traditional practices of teacher education that have taken some inequities as normal and acceptable.

The goal of our research is to examine innovations and challenges in teacher education developed during the pandemic that may help Canadian teacher educators pursue more equitable and inclusive practice on a broad scale. This research will investigate problem-solving strategies for remote teaching that teacher educators pursued in one Canadian university’s Faculty of Education, the challenges they faced, their successes, and the related experiences of their students. Our proposed multiple-case study will examine teacher educators’ adaptations to and innovations in remote teaching.

Inspired by learning sciences scholarship on design, by dis/ability studies, and by research on faculty development, the team will gather evidence through a combination of questionnaires and cued recall interviews of teacher educators’ design responses to the challenges of teacher education during the pandemic, and the related experiences of their students. Teacher educators’ understandings of equity and inclusion will be elicited, and their recall of the challenges they faced in remote teaching and their responses will be aided by unique uses of student trace data from our university’s learning management system (Canvas).

Between 20 and 24 teacher educators will be sampled across types of appointment (e.g. tenure track, teaching track and sessional instructor) to understand the unique challenges they faced in their remote teaching, and the needs that arose for them. Matching data will be collected from students in a subset of the classes, to understand the challenges that the pandemic presented for them, and how they experienced the innovative practices of their instructors. Finally, as COVID‑19 protocols are gradually relaxed, we will conduct follow-up interviews with participating instructors to learn which remote teaching innovations they preserve, and why.

Our study will enhance understanding of the policies, professional development and pedagogical supports that will be useful to teacher educators in going beyond lip service to equity and inclusive practice, as they continue remote and blended teaching post-pandemic. By documenting the struggles of faculty to create equitable and inclusive remote teaching and learning, the innovative practices they employ and their students’ responses to these, this study will offer ways of fostering effective, sustainable practices that will enable teacher education in Canada to become more inclusive and equitable across modalities (face-to-face, blended and online). Our knowledge mobilization plan includes not only presentations to fellow teacher educators and academic publications, but also outreach to administrators and policy-makers through organizations such as the Association of BC Deans of Education and the Association of Canadian Deans of Education.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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