Press Release: Survey of Teachers in the Histadrut Teachers’ Union

As we start the new school year, which will incorporate online learning for the majority of Israel’s students, the Taub Center has published a special survey, conducted in collaboration with and with the aid of the Israel Teacher’s Union (Histadrut Hamorim). The survey examines the opinions of thousands of teachers, academic advisors, counselors, and principals in primary and middle schools, as well as kindergarten and preschool  teachers, (hereinafter: “teachers”)* about distance learning. The survey includes questions about distance instruction during the shutdown last school year, teachers’ knowledge and experience with this form of instruction and the preparation it requires of them, and the infrastructure and means of assistance that were available to them during the transition to distance instruction.

About 5,100 teachers responded to the survey in Hebrew, and another 850 in Arabic. Simple averages are published in this press release, without accounting for teacher characteristics such as population group, seniority, education level taught, and the like. Analyses that take into account these characteristics will be published at a later date.

The survey reveals that even though most teachers did not receive proper training for distance instruction, and there was a lack of appropriate digital infrastructure (both in teachers’ and students’ homes), almost all teachers taught remotely during the shutdown and, in their estimation, did so successfully. In addition, most teachers perceived distance instruction as a positive experience that enhanced their professional abilities and independence. The teachers were resourceful and independently sought help from a variety of sources. Most teachers reported receiving aid and support from other teachers or from their immediate social network, and few reported receiving assistance from the Ministry of Education or local municipalities. Another important finding shows that many teachers believe those most negatively affected by distance learning were students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds or those with learning or other difficulties.

  • Since the onset of the crisis, the vast majority of the teachers – 90% – have taught classes remotely.
  • About 70% of the teachers stated that they either did not participate in any trainings in distance instruction or that they participated in a training course of less than 10 hours.
  • As expected, many teachers (about 40%) did not use remote instruction at all prior to the coronavirus crisis, and over 60% used remote instruction only once or twice a year.
  • Only 8% of teachers reported that they were not proficient in using digital tools, 41% said the digital infrastructure in their homes was not suitable for distance instruction, and about half of the respondents thought that the infrastructure in students’ homes was not suitable. Over half also thought that there was nobody to help students with technical problems, and 47% thought that there was nobody to help students with academic tasks.
  • 60% of teachers reported that their students had difficulty maintaining a high level of motivation and interest. 25% of teachers had trouble concentrating in their work due to distractions at home.
  • 34% of the teachers reported lacking institutional support (from the school/local municipality/Ministry of Education).
  • About 86% of the teachers indicated that the amount of time required to prepare an online lesson is more or much more than that required to prepare for a regular lesson due to the need to search for learning materials independently and prepare new lesson plans.
  • As for the goals of distance learning, 76% of teachers thought it was important to ensure that students learn the material, and about 80% thought it was important to help them cope with the shutdown and encourage them to build a daily routine for themselves. The vast majority of teachers felt they had succeeded in achieving the goals they set for themselves during the shutdown.
  • Though most of the teachers taught the entire class, 75% of them felt that distance instruction was much less effective than regular instruction. Teaching small groups online was also perceived by more than half of them as being less effective. Remote individual instruction was perceived as less effective by 47% of the teachers, but with regard to independent learning tasks, 40% of teachers found remote learning to be more effective than regular instruction.
  • 33% of teachers thought distance instruction allowed for building personal connections with students, while 33% felt it did not. At the same time, 51% felt that distance learning allows for greater parental involvement, and 45% felt it encourages independent learning among students.
  • Most teachers – 65% – thought distance instruction enhanced their professional abilities, and 43% felt that it increased their independence.
  • Most of the assistance received by teachers in the process of transitioning to online instruction came from other teachers or colleagues in the field, as reported by two-thirds of the teachers who participated in the survey. 50% were assisted by students, 50% by spouses/children/neighbors, and 65% made use of online videos. Only 8% reported receiving assistance from the local municipality, and 20% from the Ministry of Education.
  • As detailed above, most teachers relied primarily on themselves to deal with distance instruction, but this also had a number of positive implications for their abilities and development: about 80% of the teachers learned they could overcome unforeseen difficulties on their own, and 60% reported that they developed professionally. 77% even learned that they are creative and flexible, and 43% reported that the new reality resulted in them getting to know students and parents better.
  • As for the effect of distance learning on students, 60% of the teachers thought that distance learning greatly benefited strong students, but 59% felt that it hurt the weaker students. The harm to weaker students was most apparent among students with attention or concentration difficulties (44%), students with learning disabilities (50%), special needs students integrated into mainstream classrooms (52%), students living far from the center of the country (33%), students with social difficulties (45%), and students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds (73%).

Nachum Blass, Chair of the Education Policy Program at the Taub Center, believes the survey results suggest that teachers, who were thrown into distance instruction without adequate preparation, generally responded with great willingness to make an effort and deal with the situation. The survey also indicates a high level of solidarity and mutual aid among teaching staff, an openness and willingness to collaborate with parents and students, and the great importance teachers attach to aspects of the educational process beyond conveying the academic material.

*The survey was answered by members of the Israel Teacher’s Union (Histadrut Hamorim), including teachers, kindergarten and preschool teachers, principals, and counselors in kindergartens, elementary schools, and middle schools. Prof. Alex Weinreb, Prof. Zemira Mevarech, Dr. Rita Sever, Dr. Yoel Rapp, Prof. Yuli Tamir, and Mr. Nachum Blass participated in the preparation of the survey.

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute. The Center provides decision makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor markets and economic policy in order to impact the decision-making process in Israel and to advance the well-being of all Israelis.

For details, or to arrange an interview, please contact Anat Sella-Koren, Director of Marketing, Communications and Government Relations at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel: 050-690-9749.