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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Maintaining classroom community in a time of social distancing Sing, Darhen Rosanna Vokey


This study examines the impact of social distancing on the school community of a small sample of Canadian adolescent students in Grade 6 and 7 living in Vancouver, British Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research questions included: 1) In what ways does social distancing influence classroom community? 2) How might conceptions of place change as school transitions into an online learning track? 3) In what ways might journaling maintain students’ sense of school-as-community during a time of social/physical distancing? 4) How are students reacting to the ongoing changes, in terms of school-based, home-based, and remote learning? A qualitative case-study approach was used to explore these questions. A secondary autobiographical line of inquiry re-examined researcher journals using poetic inquiry. Research methodology and methods used to examine student journals included self-recorded interviews and teacher/researcher observations as a way to understand how social distancing has impacted classroom community and students’ relationship to their learning places and spaces during this pandemic. The methods used included convenience sampling, self-recorded interviews, and textual analysis. Data was collected from two groups: from May - June 2020 and from September - November 2020. 44 documents collected in the Spring of 2020 and 39 collected in the Fall of 2020. Raw data totals include: 83 participant journal entries and 104 photographed researcher journal entries. Across both data sets, six major nodes emerged: community, relationships, shared-experiences, hope, COVID-19, and holding space for uncertainty. Findings indicate that the majority of students were resilient and social distancing measures became normalized over the course of the data collection period. Findings also found that social distancing measures impacted the classroom community of these Grade 6 and 7 students by putting constraints on their ability to interact and socialize. Data from students did not indicate significant change in conceptions of place, however, researcher and teacher observations did include data that suggests that adults in the community began thinking differently about place. Data indicated that structured journaling, explicitly taught and modelled by the teacher, that included reflective and collaborative activities may have helped maintain students’ sense of community.

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