Hybrid teaching and learning — some combination of in-person and virtual instruction — is here to stay, according to a survey of parents and teachers conducted for the educational technology company Instructure.

The newly released survey results indicate that ongoing technology use will be essential in supporting classroom activities and ensuring that students stay engaged and parents stay informed.

“We know technology will remain pivotal as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey,” said Trenton Goble, Instructure’s vice president of K-12 strategy.

Among educators surveyed, 81% said technology will become increasingly important in teaching and learning moving forward, and two-thirds believe remote learning will impact classroom practices in the future.

Among parents, 64% expressed a more positive opinion of online learning while educators reported a slightly lower number at 55%.

Jeni Larsen, a third grade teacher at Parkview Elementary School in Salt Lake City, gives a thumbs up to her students online on the first day of school in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The survey, “The State of Teaching & Learning in K-12 Education,” reflects 664 qualified responses, including 464 parents and 200 teachers/administrators.

Instructure partnered with Hanover Research to survey parents and teachers from March to May 2021 through MarketSight. There is a 95% confidence level in the survey results, according to Instructure, makers of Canvas, a web-based learning management system used in K-12 schools and in higher education. 

While technology will play an essential role in education moving forward, the survey results indicate student success is highly reliant on high-quality teaching.

Eighty-five percent of parents ranked it as the most important factor. With regard to social-emotional learning, 99% of educators and 91% of parents rated students’ relationship with teachers as the top factor in student success.

Goble, who was a teacher and administrator for 20 years before pivoting to a private-sector career in assessment and educational technology, said the survey results validate the role of teachers in education.

“I think for a long time we had forgotten just how hard they work, how much time goes into teaching kids, but more than anything else, that personal connection that comes from being face-to-face in a classroom and how teachers had to adapt really quickly. I think they did an amazing job being able to create those same kinds of connections in a remote environment,” he said.

The survey also explored issues of educational equity related to access to technology.

According to the survey results, 39% of respondents reported that insufficient equipment or lack of access to devices was a top challenge or concern with technology solutions, although the lack of in-person interaction ranked higher among parents and educators.

“The pandemic didn’t create inequity, but it certainly exposed the inequity in terms of student access to devices, student access to the internet and the impact that obviously had on a remote learning environment. Kids who didn’t have access to devices and to the internet were obviously much more susceptible to learning loss and not having consistent education,” Goble said.

The sudden and large-scale reliance on digital teaching and learning “forced the government to look at ways to make funds available so that districts could close that gap,” he said.

The survey results also revealed it may be time for a fundamental shift in student testing, moving away from high-stakes, end-of-level assessments and a greater reliance on formative assessments, which are teacher-driven tests that provide ongoing data on student progress so teachers can better meet students’ needs.

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As an educator, Goble said he never once received summative test results “and went ‘Wow, I’m shocked by that.’ I knew how my kids were going to do on the end-of-level assessment, I knew who was going to score off the charts and I knew which students were going to score poorly on those assessments. So in that sense it’s kind of strange that we put so much energy and effort into those assessments when, really, in a lot of ways, they’re just validating things that teachers already know,” he said.

Among 14 factors that contribute to student success, standardized test scores ranked last, according to the survey results.

But that’s not to suggest teachers weren’t assessing students. The survey showed 76% of educators delivered formative assessments during remote learning.

“One of the things we saw in the survey was this, this could be an opportunity for us to rethink the way that we assess kids and why we assess kids in school,” Goble said.

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