How to cultivate personal learning and professional growth in a disrupting time among reactions, resistances and collective transformations. An empirical study with Italian school teachers


  • Alessandra Romano UNIVERSITY OF SIENA


Scenario: COVID 19 had a severe impact in every sphere of life and education is not an exception of this. The pandemic emergency due to the spread of the Covid-19 is producing an epochal change that is transforming in irreversible terms the nature, objectives, didactic and organizational practices of Higher Education systems. This is particularly urgent in some countries, like Italy, where the spread of the pandemic was terribly more advanced than in other states. 

Object of the study: The article presents the results of a national study about reactions, feelings and resistance to the changes of primary and secondary school teachers  imposed by the lockdown due to the pandemic.

Literature Review and conceptual framework: The conceptual framework adopted for the study includes the empirical research on the constructs of collective disorienting dilemma (Dirkx, Mezirow, & Cranton, 2006), and traumatic exposure to cumulative adverse experiences (Kendler, et al., 2003; Felitti, 2017), emotional impact (Cerniglia, et al., 2020; Brooks, et al., 2020;Deckla, et al., 2020). Our hypothesis is that the pandemic unexpected widespread and the consequential lockdown imposed in many countries as first measure to prevent the diffusion of the contagions may be assimilated to: - a traumatic experience, with high emotional impact on people mindsets and behaviors; - a collective disorienting dilemma capable to elicit emotional reactions and intensification of disposability to learn and adaptability to change of people if adequately supported.

Research questions: What kind of feelings, reactions and behaviors did school teachers assume during and after the lockdown? How did teachers, faculty, and educational instructors react to the shift from in presence classes to distance learning and which factors were mostly influencing their reactions? What factors can be mostly effective in helping them to cultivate their professional development through and while engaging with these epochal challenges? 

Design and methodology: Starting from those questions, an on-line survey was designed and administered to more than 400 in-service teachers of primary, secondary and high schools across Italy. 348 teachers completed the survey.  Among them, 20,40 % of the respondents were primary school teachers (N=71); 37,07% of the respondents (N= 129) were secondary school teachers; 42,53% of the respondents were teachers of high school (N=148). Statistical descriptive analysis were carried out. 

Findings: Statistical descriptive analysis were carried out. The majority of the respondents reported emotions of sadness, melancholy and sense of loss during the experience of lockdown. Some factors emerged as potentially affecting the increase of negative/positive feelings, such as the material conditions of the home environment, the number of people at home and the type of job, the openness and disposability to change and adapt to new life conditions. Factors that impacted positively on school teachers’ reactions and feelings to the pandemic were: a) technology adaptability and readiness; b) accessibility to sophisticated platforms and tools for conducting online classes; c) the social support perceived by their institutions and the community of the colleagues.

Theoretical and pedagogical implications are discussed with recommendations for supporting teachers to increase their knowledge and familiarity with the highly technological instruments of the online distance learning and to acquire capacity to make the difference in (a) addressing digital divide and technological poverty in students, and (b) guarantee equity and accessibility of the all digital contents for all students. 

Practical implications: The research identifies a unique approach to intercept factors that can trigger and facilitate perspectives transformations in educators, teachers, faculty engaged with the challenges of the disruptive changes due to the Covid – 19 pandemics. This is particularly relevant when lots of countries in the world are facing the third wave of the contagions and the measures to prevent the exponential growth of the curve.

Author Biography

Alessandra Romano, UNIVERSITY OF SIENA