The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic imposed an immediate transition upon teachers replacing face-to-face lessons with online environments. This drastic change brought out a novel phenomenon for investigation: teachers’ perceptions of online teaching during the pandemic. The literature indicated teachers’ perceived issues related to workload, pedagogy, assessment, and institutional support during online teaching in various contexts (Cheung, 2021; Todd, 2020; Yang, 2020); however, the number of existing studies in the Turkish context is scarce. Thus, the rationale of the present study is to fill the gap as no research has aimed to study Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions on the K-12 online teaching. The present mixed-method study had a twofold aim: to investigate the perception levels of K-12 Turkish EFL teachers about online teaching during the pandemic and to explore their perceptions pertaining to institutional support. The quantitative data were collected from 31 teachers via a questionnaire developed by Şener et al. (2020) and the qualitative data were obtained via a semi-structured focus group interview with five volunteer teachers. The findings of the descriptive analysis of the teachers’ perceptions toward online teaching revealed moderate-high scores. The results of the qualitative data with related themes demonstrated that most of the participant teachers urged for more technical and emotional support from their institutions.
Keywords: Turkish EFL teachers, language teaching, online teaching, teacher perceptions, the COVID-19 pandemic
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, many governments and educational institutions worldwide had to leave the traditional face-to-face classroom teaching methods and start online education immediately. This drastic change was so sudden that teachers had almost no time to plan for the online learning environments. Although online education is not a new phenomenon, online education during the pandemic is a novel situation that necessitated the complete replacement of face-to-face lessons with online lessons. This shift eliminated the validity of all previous research conducted on the subject of online education since the context of the COVID-19 pandemic was a novel paradigm both for the students and the teachers throughout the world.
The situation was the same for English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers. They had no time to arrange for the necessary changes for online education and make plans for online teaching. There is only a little research conducted on EFL teachers’ perceptions of online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, there is no research conducted in Turkey that aims to understand K-12 Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions about online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, there is an urgent need for understanding the K-12 Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions regarding online teaching since this information might be used to improve future online teaching practices. The purpose of this study is to shed light on Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions of online teaching and reveal the significance of teachers’ perceptions for future online teaching practices.
In the simplest way possible, the term perception was defined as “the processes that allow us to extract information from the patterns of energy that impinge on our sense organs” (Rogers, 2017, p. 1). In addition, Papadakis and Kalogiannakis (2020) defined the term teachers’ perceptions as “the thoughts or mental images which teachers have about their professional activities and their students, which are shaped by their background knowledge and life experiences and influence their professional behavior” (p. 1). These definitions are highly valuable for the present research as they limit one of the main constructs of this research.
Other significant constructs that require definitions for the context of the present research are online education and online teaching. Briefly, Sherritt and Basom (1997, as cited in Gudea, 2008) define online education as the use of the Internet for teaching and learning purposes and emphasize how distance education has evolved to take full advantage of the latest technology to improve the educational experience for learners. According to Major (2015), online teaching means changing the way we think about our profession as educators and requires rethinking our beliefs and skills; it entails learning new pedagogical approaches, media-related information, and communication techniques. Major (2015) also pointed out that teaching online provides us the grounds for the necessity of novel research on this phenomenon since online teaching requires rethinking teaching, and altering the methods, materials, and pedagogy. Thus, the use of teaching materials, methods, and pedagogies that were designed for traditional classroom teaching environments for online education proposes a threat that might be irreparable to EFL students’ language acquisition.
Previous definitions provide us with the grounds for the necessity of understanding EFL teachers’ perceptions on online teaching during the pandemic period. Based on the teachers’ perceptions, researchers might develop new methods, materials, and pedagogies to implement for online education as immediately as possible. Furthermore, this study aims to fill the rationale gap as no research directly aims to study Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions on the K-12 online teaching. The findings of the present study might be used in further research as they might give researchers ideas about how to ameliorate teachers’ perceptions of online teaching and explicitly improve current online teaching practices.
Major issues mentioned by teachers worldwide regarding online teaching during the pandemic
In order to provide a general understanding of the topic of teachers’ perceptions about online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, this section was divided into four main concepts. The concepts were decided based on the main themes that exist in the majority of the research articles on the topic of teachers’ perceptions during online education: teachers’ workload, pedagogical issues, difficulties in assessment, and institutional support in online teaching environments.
Teachers’ perceptions of workload
There are several studies worldwide whose findings specifically include workload in terms of teachers’ perceptions (Niemi & Kousa, 2020; Pedro & Kumar, 2020; Priyadarshani & Jesuiya, 2021; Todd, 2020).
In a study conducted at a local upper secondary school in Finland, Niemi and Kousa (2020) aimed to describe students’ and teachers’ perceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data was collected via a survey applied at four distinct times and open-ended interviews. The findings of the study revealed many factors including teachers’ perceptions of increased workload. The qualitative results of the survey showed that in distance teaching, more than half of the teachers spent more time planning distance teaching than in-person teaching, thus leading to increased workload of the teachers. Another study that mentioned increased workload during online teaching was Todd’s (2020) study conducted at a Thai University. In the study, participant teachers were asked in a survey to rate the seriousness of the problems teachers might have encountered during online teaching and to share their ideas regarding the advantages and disadvantages of online teaching in a subsequent interview. The findings of the study showed that although some of the problems participant teachers encountered during online teaching became more trivial, some remained unresolved. The unresolved issues were: the time spent checking assignments and the time spent contacting the students. The researchers concluded that the workload the teachers have during online teaching might be heavier than in face-to-face teaching.
Teachers’ perceptions of pedagogical issues
Many studies purport lack of interaction in online lessons as one of the most predominant findings related to pedagogical issues (Cheung, 2021; Gao & Zhang, 2020; Niemi & Kousa, 2020; Spoel et al., 2020; Yang, 2020).
In the study conducted by Spoel et al. (2020), the researchers compared teachers’ perceptions of online teaching expectations and experiences with data coming from a survey of 200 Dutch educators. The findings of the study demonstrated that there was a significant change in the perceptions of the teachers as they managed to resolve the majority of their problems except for interaction in online teaching environments. Another study with similar findings conducted by Cheung (2021) investigated the phenomenon of one ESL teacher delivering her lessons on Zoom synchronously and the factors affecting her level of technology integration. One of the emergent themes was teachers’ interaction with students and Cheung mentioned that conducting lessons on zoom had its challenges. Similarly, Gao and Zhang (2020) investigated EFL teachers’ cognitions about online teaching in response to the disruption of traditional teaching and found that online EFL teaching lacked instantaneous teacher-student interaction.
Teachers’ perceptions of assessment
There are also a couple of recent studies conducted on teachers’ perceptions regarding online teaching during the pandemic and their results demonstrate perceived difficulty in terms of assessment (Cheung, 2021; Niemi & Kousa, 2020; Todd, 2020; Yang, 2020). In Todd’s (2020) study, one of the remaining problems mentioned in the findings was marking student assignments in online education. In Cheung’s (2021) case study, the participant also reported having difficulty in checking students’ understanding of online lessons and considered evaluation to be the greatest problem in online lessons. The results of an online survey conducted by Yang (2020) also showed that 33.3% of the teachers reported having difficulty controlling the progress of the class. Similarly, the qualitative findings of Niemi and Kousa’s (2020) study revealed that most teachers were worried about how to follow students’ progress and students’ evaluation was a major concern for the teachers.
At the time when the present study was conducted, there was no study in the literature that directly investigated teachers’ perceptions of institutional support during online teaching other than in Turkey. Since teachers’ perceptions of online teaching are a novel phenomenon, the study by Şener et al. (2020) was found to be the only valid study on this topic. The study explored the perceptions of English teachers in terms of technical, pedagogical, and institutional problems they experienced. The participants were 39 English teachers at a private university in Istanbul. The data was collected with a cross-sectional survey that included a Likert scale and open-ended questions. The results of the quantitative data indicated that although most teachers reported being asked about assistance on technical issues and equipment, only half of them reported getting actual technical help from their institutions. Besides, teachers’ answers to the qualitative questions revealed problems related to lack of standardization and communication within the institutions that the teachers worked for. One positive point the teachers made was getting emotional support from their colleagues. Secondly, the study brought forth some interesting results concerning pedagogical facts like interaction. Lack of interaction among instructors, between instructors and students was mentioned by many participants in the study. Thirdly, 31 out of 39 teachers reported an increase in workload compared to face-to-face education. Moreover, in the open-ended questions, some of the teachers mentioned they also had worked outside the office hours. Lastly, teachers also expressed financial concerns. Another study conducted by Pedro and Kumar (2020) solely aimed to find out the main categories of an institutional framework. In this study, researchers did not investigate teachers’ perceptions. As the researchers knew the importance of institutional support to provide quality online teaching environments, they aimed to determine institutional support services that help faculty practice quality online teaching. Findings of the research demonstrated the categories of institutional support for quality teaching which were: technical support for teachers and students, teachers’ access to course evaluation data, institutional guidelines for online course design, administrative and academic support for online students, professional development opportunities for the teachers, instructional design support, online program management support, and online education research support.
Critique of existing literature
A review of existing studies conducted worldwide provides a framework and valuable information about teachers’ perceptions regarding online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Except for the domain of teachers’ perceptions of institutional support in online education, all other domains that were discussed in this literature review such as teachers’ perceptions of workload, assessment, and interaction were found to be entreated in several studies worldwide. The findings of these studies provided the grounds for the present research and also showed the lack of research worldwide on the topic of teachers’ perceptions of institutional support in online education. Since teachers’ perceptions of online education is a novel topic and there is no research that directly aims to study Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions on the K-12 teaching, this research aims to investigate Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions on the K-12 online teaching.
In line with the above-mentioned aims, the following research questions were formulated:
- What is the perception level of Turkish EFL teachers about online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- What are the perceptions of Turkish EFL teachers pertaining to institutional support?
Participants and Context
The study was conducted after the end of the academic year of 2020-2021 in Istanbul, Turkey. The target population for the study was K-12 Turkish EFL teachers who had experienced online teaching. The non-probability Snowball sampling method was used to determine the research participants. The Google form questionnaire link was sent to various K-12 Private School English department heads from Istanbul, Turkey. The department heads were asked to share the questionnaire in their teachers’ WhatsApp groups. The semi-structured interview was conducted with volunteer participants who had taken the questionnaire and denoted their interest in taking part in the interview.
According to the demographic information from the survey, 14 out of 31 participants were elementary school teachers, 11 of them were high school teachers, four of them were middle school teachers, and two of them were kindergarten teachers. Out of the 31 participants, 29 confirmed that they were teaching online at the time they took the survey, 22 stated that they had never taught online before the pandemic, six stated that they had conducted blended lessons including both face-to-face and online components, and three were teaching fully online.
Data collection procedure and instruments
The research design for the present study is a mixed-method research design since the data was collected by both quantitative and qualitative instruments. To answer the first research question, a Google form questionnaire was used as the first data collection tool. The questionnaire that was used in the study is taken from the study conducted by Şener et al. (2020). To ensure the validity of the survey, a reliability analysis was conducted on SPSS by the researchers, and the Cronbach alpha coefficient was found to be 0.725. The internal consistency of the questionnaire was found to be high. The questionnaire consisted of two sections including demographic and 5-point Likert scale questions. The part that included open-ended questions was removed from the questionnaire. In addition, the options for the first demographic questions asking for the participants’ teaching context were changed into K-12 grades to match the target population (see Appendix A). To answer the second research question, semi-structured focus group interviews were used as a data collection tool. The participants who volunteered in the survey were invited to a focus group interview. There was one focus group with 5 participants. The questions which were used in the interviews were formulated by the researchers to bring an in-depth understanding of teachers’ perceptions of institutional support (see Appendix B). The participants were allowed to use their mother tongue to better express themselves.
Data analysis procedure
The demographic questions from the questionnaire were used to describe the participants of the study, whereas the 5-point Likert scale questions ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) were analyzed on IBM SPSS Statistics 25 using descriptive statistics. Specifically, the frequency and mean scores of the Likert scale questions were analyzed to answer the first research question and investigate Turkish EFL teachers’ perception levels of online teaching. Secondly, focus group interviews were translated into English and transcribed verbatim. The transcriptions were analyzed inductively to bring an in-depth understanding of Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions regarding institutional support. Miles and Huberman (1994) define inductive analysis as a process in which “the researcher discovers recurrent phenomena in the stream of local experience and finds recurrent relations among them” (p. 155). Since the categories in the inductive analysis are not pre-determined, the qualitative data analysis procedure was done thematically with an expert colleague in the field. During this process, the researchers constantly negotiated among themselves for the emergent categories, themes, and codes to ensure inter-rater reliability and abstain from researcher bias. This process continued until the emergent themes and categories answered the research question completely. As a result, the researchers came up with a holistic final outcome.
Findings for Research Question 1: What is the perception level of Turkish EFL teachers about online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Quantitative data obtained from the 5-point Likert scale questions were analyzed using descriptive statistics on SPSS. In order to give overall information about teachers’ perception levels concerning online teaching during the pandemic, the Likert scale questions were grouped under five sub-themes and overall mean scores (x̅) for each of these sub-themes were calculated.
Table 1. Turkish EFL Teachers’ Perception Levels of Online Teaching during the Pandemic
|Difficulty in Effective Teaching/Learning||3.67|
|Difficulty in Assessment||3.64|
|Emotional Support by Colleagues||4.06|
Out of the 12 questions, seven were directly measuring teachers’ perceptions regarding institutional support and as the lowest score in the scale, the mean score calculated for institutional support was x̅ = 3.24. Respectively, it was followed by increased workload, difficulty in assessment, and difficulty in effective teaching/learning scores, and the highest mean score calculated was x̅ = 4.06 for the sub-theme of emotional support by colleagues.
Findings for Research Question 2: What are the perceptions of Turkish EFL teachers pertaining to institutional support?
The analysis of the focus group interview transcriptions resulted in the emergence of the following three themes and six categories. The initial emergent theme was insufficient technical support with the categories of no internet support and slow computers. The second theme was no emotional support with the categories of no caring and late meeting hours. The last theme was outcomes including the categories of exhaustion and isolation. Table 2 below shows a detailed summary of the direct quotations from the interviews.
Overall, teachers’ perceptions of institutional support during an unprecedented time like the pandemic illustrated a case in which teachers had been highly affected by the lack of technical and emotional support provided by the institutions. This overt lack led teachers to face new feelings related to their occupations: exhaustion and isolation.
Table 2. Perceptions of Turkish EFL Teachers Pertaining to Institutional Support
The present study sought to address two research questions: What is the perception level of Turkish EFL teachers about online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the perceptions of Turkish EFL teachers pertaining to institutional support? The findings of the study revealed that the theme with the highest loadings for the participant EFL teachers was emotional support provided by colleagues during online education. Although the participant teachers had to work remotely from each other under the unusual working conditions of the pandemic, they nonetheless perceived a strong support network among themselves. On the other hand, the lowest loadings were shared for institutional support during online teaching. This finding was also in line with the data from the focus group interviews where the participant teachers also reported a lack of emotional and technical support from their administrators.
In comparison with the previous literature, the present study has several interference points. First, the study presents similar quantitative findings as in Şener et al.’s (2020) study. Although the above-mentioned study was conducted with tertiary level EFL teachers and the present one was conducted with K-12 teachers, in both studies, participant teachers reported low levels of institutional support and high levels of collegial support during online teaching. The accordance in these two studies demonstrates that institutional support in online education is an issue in the EFL field for teachers of all levels. Secondly, in terms of institutional support, the technical support provided by the institutions was found to be insufficient. This finding can be interpreted with one of Pedro and Kumar’s (2020) suggestions for overcoming the setbacks online education environments have; the researchers point out the need for institutions to provide more effective online training about technical support both for teachers and students. Another important issue put forth was increased workload during online teaching (as in Niemi & Kousa, 2020; Todd, 2020). Although workload in online teaching might not be considered much physically when compared to face-to-face teaching, the perceived workload participant teachers reported in all these studies was significantly high. This finding might be caused by the blurred working hours in online teaching environments or the extra time-consuming tasks online teaching has brought forth like planning, assignment control, and reaching students as the previous research demonstrates.
In this changing landscape, where online teaching has brought many novel issues for EFL teachers to overcome, drawing implications from our experiences at the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic has utmost importance. The perceived experiences of the participant EFL teachers in the present study shed light on a need for finding possible solutions to the issue of institutional support in online teaching. In terms of supplying technical support, institutions might give effective training to teachers on a regular basis. They might increase the number of IT staff who can remotely guide both teachers and students during online teaching. As for emotional support, institutions may arrange teacher round tables where teachers might have a common space to share their feelings. During these round table events, teachers might come up with common activity suggestions that might ease their support needs and share these with their administrators. Institutions can also take action so as to reduce teachers’ online class and meeting hours in online teaching environments since this would also increase the quality of the education teachers provide.
LIMITATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
The present study had certain limitations such as the limited number of participants and the narrow scope of the study. Since only 31 Turkish K12 EFL teacher participants completed the survey in the quantitative part of the study, the number might have fallen short in representing the target population thoroughly. Similarly, the focus group interview was conducted only once with the five volunteer teachers, which could have included more participants or could have been conducted at intervals. The narrow scope of the study was another limitation since the data was collected from K12 Turkish EFL teachers. The topic of EFL teachers’ online teaching perceptions is not distinctive to K12 Turkish EFL teachers and it concerns all EFL teachers worldwide. A further research suggestion could be conducting a similar study with a larger universe and participant numbers since all EFL teachers were affected by the immediate online teaching experience the COVID-19 pandemic propounded. Examining the perceptions of state and foundation school teachers separately may also bring forth distinctive results in terms of institutional support. Another suggestion for investigating the topic of institutional support during online teaching could be adding the perceptions of the administrative staff on this matter.
Cheung, A. (2021). Language teaching during a pandemic: A case study of Zoom use by a secondary ESL teacher in Hong Kong. RELC Journal, 1-16.
Gao, L. X., & Zhang, L. J. (2020). Teacher learning in difficult times: Examining foreign language teachers’ cognitions about online teaching to tide over COVID-19. Frontier in Psychology, 11:549653. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.549653
Gudea, S. (2008). Expectations and demands in online teaching: Practical experiences. New York: Information Science Publishing.
Major, C. H. (2015). Teaching online: A guide to theory, research, and practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Niemi, H. M., & Kousa, P. (2020). A case study of students’ and teachers’ perceptions in a Finnish high school during the COVID pandemic. International Journal of Technology in Education and Science (IJTES), 4(4), 352-369.
Papadakis, S., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2020). Handbook of research on tools for teaching computational thinking in P-12 education. Retrieved from https://www.igiglobal.com/book/handbook-research-tools-teaching-computational/244503
Pedro, N. S., & Kumar, S. (2020). Institutional support for online teaching in quality assurance frameworks. Online Learning, 24(3), 50-66. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i3.2309
Priyadarshani, H. D. C., & Jesuiya, D. (2021). Teacher’s perception on online teaching method during Covid-19: With reference to school level teachers at faculty of education, the open university of Sri Lanka. Shanlax International Journal of Education, 9(2), 132-140. https://doi.org/10.34293/ education.v9i2.3662
Rogers, B. (2017). Perception: A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Şener, B., Ertem, I. S., & Meç, A. (2020). Online teaching experiences of ELT instructors. Journal of Education, Technology and Online Learning. 3(3), 340-362.
Spoel, I., Noroozi, O., Schuurink, E., & Ginkel S. (2020). Teachers’ online teaching expectations and experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Netherlands. European Journal of Teacher Education, 43(4), 623-638. https://doi.org/10.1080/02619768.2020.1821185
Todd, R. W. (2020). Teachers’ perceptions of the shift from the classroom to online teaching. International Journal of TESOL Studies, 2(2), 4-6. https://doi.org/10.46451/ijts.2020.09.02
Yang, X. (2020). Teachers’ perceptions of large-scale online teaching as an epidemic prevention and control strategy in China. ECNU Review of Education, 3(4), 739-744. https://doi.org/10.1177/2096531120922244
1.Which K-12 level do you teach?
- Elementary School
- Middle School
- High school
2. Are you currently teaching online?
3. Have you ever taught online before?
- Yes, blended (Face to face + Synchronous / Asynchronous Online Component)
- Yes, fully online
4. Which language skills do you teach? If other, please specify
- Other: __________
5. Please provide us your e-mail address. We might invite you to take an interview with us on a voluntary basis
6. Please enter a valid phone number. We might invite you to take an interview with us on a voluntary basis?
Please answer the questions regarding your current online teaching experience.
|Question||Strongly disagree||Disagree||Neutral||Agree||Strongly agree|
|My institution has offered to provide me with necessary technical equipment (internet connection, laptop, camera etc.||O||O||O||O||O|
|My institution has provided me with necessary technical equipment (internet connection, laptop, camera etc.)||O||O||O||O||O|
|My institution has provided me with necessary technical knowledge (how to use online tools, virtual classroom etc.)||O||O||O||O||O|
|My institution has provided me with pedagogical/ academic help regarding how to teach online.||O||O||O||O||O|
|My institution has taken measurements against the potential increase in teachers’ workload. (reducing class hours/ office hours/ offering extra help)||O||O||O||O||O|
|My institution’s expectations from me have increased compared to face-to-face teaching workload.||O||O||O||O||O|
|I think online teaching is more difficult than face-to-face teaching in terms of workload.||O||O||O||O||O|
|I think online teaching is more difficult than face-to-face teaching in terms of effective teaching/ learning.||O||O||O||O||O|
|I think online teaching is more difficult than face-to-face teaching in terms of assessment.||O||O||O||O||O|
|I feel I am currently financially supported by my institution.||O||O||O||O||O|
|I feel I am currently emotionally supported by my institution.||O||O||O||O||O|
|I feel I am currently emotionally supported by my colleagues.||O||O||O||O||O|
Semi-structured interview questions produced by the researcher
- What do you think about institutional support you have received during the online teaching period? Tell me about your experiences so far.
- How do you feel about about institutional support you have received during the online teaching period?
- If this question was asked to your colleagues, what would they say about the institutional support they have received during the online teaching period?
- Considering your online teaching experiences so far, what was the most difficult institutional/ workplace problem you have encountered? Are you still experiencing this problem? If no, how was it solved? If yes, what do you think causes this problem to continue?
Burcu GÜL (B.A. in English Language & Literature, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul) is an M.A. candidate in the Department of English Language Teaching at Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul. She teaches English at a private high school. Her research interests are teacher/learner identity, professional development, and in-service teacher education.