R. Bubnys , L. Rupšienė , R. Girdzijauskienė , E. Pranckūnienė 

Klaipėda university (LITHUANIA)
The experience of Covid-19 pandemics influenced everybody‘s personal and professional life. The system of higher education worldwide is experiencing a challenging era due to the obligation to ensure the quality of distance studies. Traditional process of studies had to be moved to distance in a very short period. Directly or indirectly the „new reality“ affected various sides of our life and the study process at teacher training programs was not an exception.

Research indicates (Eurydice, 2020) that teacher educators were facing serious challenges as well. Teacher educators being remote physically from their students had to put much more time and energy creating learning relations rather than during live meetings. Social aspect of interpersonal relations turned out to be extremely urgent in a virtual space. The crises affected interpersonal interactions, which played an important role in a changing dynamics of the study process. Teacher educators did lose a natural contact with students in virtual space and it unavoidably demanded changing habits of teaching and building interactions. The method of collective autoethnography was chosen to explore the dynamics of interpersonal relations and it‘s substance. This approach enabled us to use our life stories and experience to understand and interpret the interrelationship between ourselves and others in order to explore the unique social reality of the present crisis (Roy, Uekusa, 2020). Collaborative reflection is a way to scrutinise new reality of „new normal“ accumulating different perspectives and world views for critical analyses of lived experience.

Team of 4 teacher educators/researchers shared and analysed their lived experience in educating student teachers and teachers during Covid‘19 pandemic since March, 2020.

One of main discoveries of collective autoethnography is that teacher educators had to change their own and learners’ ways and means of communication and maintaining relationships. Re-evaluation of the personal contribution in creating the two-way communication becomes particularly important. Changes of interactions forced to reconsider attitudes and beliefs and find more effective ways to build and maintain relationships compensating the limitations of distance communication. The shortage of a natural relationship and direct communication encouraged the development of social awareness and communication skills by testing different teaching strategies.

At the beginning of distance teaching teacher educator’s key goal is to establish and maintain relation with students. The biggest source of confusion is how to build constructive and effective relations with learners. The main discoveries for teacher educators are the understanding of the social perception process, the interpretation of nonverbal language signals, and successful cognition of learners. The transformation of relationships leads to the conclusion that in the future successful teaching practice will be ensured through a combination of live and online contact. This shows that in principal distance contacts will not be able to replace live, natural physical contact.