Date of Award

Summer 8-3-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)


Interdisciplinary Program


Michael Wittmann

Second Committee Member

Franziska Peterson

Third Committee Member

Asli Sezen-Barrie


In March 2020, an unexpected event changed the educational systems throughout the world. In the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic caused public places to close down, including schools. To continue education, schools in Maine went online. This study describes how Maine secondary science teachers taught and assessed their students while teaching remotely for the first time during the lockdown. It does so by investigating teachers’ perspectives about the impact on their students, how they handled the issue of equity, their new priorities and expectations, their teaching and assessment challenges, and their successful strategies during the initial phase of the lockdown. Apart from experiences shared by all teachers (N=10), the differences among the experience of teachers in high socioeconomic status (SES) schools (called affluent) vs the low-SES schools (called high-need) has been analyzed.

For this qualitative research, semi-structured Zoom interviews were done with voluntary participation from secondary school teachers who were recruited through a snowball sampling method. A phenomenological approach was used in this research to capture the overall experience of teachers and to make meaning out of it, resulting in five themes. A comparative coding process to better understand the phenomenon was utilized to compare and contrast teachers in affluent schools vs high-need schools through the five themes. In addition, an open coding method, inspired by the grounded theory approach, led to seven emergent findings, which further describe nuances of the five overall themes.

Results show that teaching and assessment were affected significantly during the Spring of 2020. Students were impacted greatly in all schools. In the wake of this impact, teachers shifted their priorities to the well-being of students rather than academics. To be more fair and equitable, they reduced their academic expectations and focused on being more available to support students. Moreover, the grading system (or in some cases criteria) was relaxed. Thus, teaching rigor was reduced, and assessment got streamlined.

In the Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), lessons shifted more towards content than practices, and teachers tried to do new engaging lessons to retain student engagement. Teachers struggled with informal formative assessment and also with active learning. For many teachers, student engagement and attendance declined with time. Teachers were not very satisfied with their teaching as they were challenged with technology, exhaustion, family responsibilities, and not being able to help struggling students as usual. Participants also shared what they were grateful for, things they learned, and their future plans to support student learning.

This study highlights the inequity in Maine schools that was exacerbated during the lockdown. Teachers in high-need schools reduced their expectations a lot more than affluent schools because their students were more severely impacted, and they did not receive the same parental and administration support as affluent ones. The grading system was another limiting factor for high-need schools. There were significant differences in the two categories of teachers in terms of their challenges, strategies, and future plan. The role of parents became more important than ever before as students worked from home. All teachers persevered in the face of various challenges, tried new strategies, and did their best to support their students