As it becomes more clear that we may be back to in-person classes in the Fall (at least in much of the US and Canada), I’ve been seeing lots of webinars and blog posts about “what to keep from pandemic teaching.” I’d love to know your answers to this question! What changes or improvements from the last year do you hope to keep, and what can you not wait to drop?
Planning for the Future
Thanks for this question! As much as everyone seems to be excited about getting “back to normal,” we’ve also been thinking about whether “normal” is what we want to return to. Isn’t there *anything* we’ve learned over the past 15 months to help us grow, change, and be better than “normal?” Below are the thoughts of your ECP committee.
Molly: There are SO MANY changes I’ve made that I’m so happy with! First, motivated by the limitations of online students spread across the world, three of the five courses I taught this year included shifts from paid to OER resources (texts, articles, and data analysis software). Second, now that I know how to record lectures and use autocaptions, I will always do this in the interest of accessibility (and frankly, I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t figure it out sooner!). Third, it’s amazing how much better communication was amongst my TA team for my large stats courses once I started using Slack. And finally, on a lighter note, my websites and course communications are way more fun now with the use of Canva and Bitmoji. I think these changes have all made me a more thoughtful and more engaging professor, and I look forward to being able to combine these benefits with the thing I miss most about in-person teaching: the informal, spontaneous interactions we get with students before/after class and in office hours.
Albee: Interestingly, my institution was fully in-person throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Still, the post-pandemic in-person teaching experience was different in a number of ways. Despite being in-person, classes were often hybrid as students received temporary stay-at-home accommodations. Thus, I learned to hold classes on Zoom or Teams while teaching students in the classroom. Considering students' other demands, I recorded my lectures and posted slides so students could access them at their convenience. Different from what I did pre-pandemic, I gave open-notes, open-book quizzes and exams on our learning management system instead of hosting in-person, in-class, paper-pencil assignments. Additionally, I provided more non-academic opportunities for extra credit (e.g., working, volunteering), extended deadlines without penalties, and offered more times for student hours (virtually, by phone, or in-person).
Courtney: One small thing I’d like to keep is the opportunity to schedule online office hour appointments (I discovered Calendly over the pandemic which was awesome!) and allow students the opportunity to select how they would like to meet with me. While I am feeling very “over” Zoom meetings currently, I do think giving students the opportunity to meet via Zoom, Google Meet, or phone (in addition to in-person) could be helpful-particularly for commuting students or non-traditional students who might have a harder time showing up for in-person on-campus office hours at particular times of the day. During this time of pandemic teaching, most of my classes adopted some sort of hybrid model. Given that, I found I was more intentional about creating a sense of classroom community online by using tools like Perusall to support authentic discussions about class readings outside of lecture. I think doing more to help students feel connected to each other while tackling readings and assignments outside of class might help enhance the in-person classroom environment once we are all back to our “normal” classroom spaces.
Daniel: In addition to many of the wonderful suggestions that my colleagues here have mentioned (e.g., using open educational resources, focusing on accessibility, being more effective with your LMS, communicating with students regularly), there’s one big thing I saw a lot of this year that I would love to see even more of moving forward: compassion. During the pandemic, there was what felt like a movement driven by educators to be more compassionate toward their students—to understand their struggles, to give them the benefit of the doubt, and to be flexible in how we approach the requirements of our classrooms. It can be easy in our positions to question students’ true motives, to wonder whether they’re actually sick or whether their grandmother actually died, and so on. But students really do get sick, and grandmothers really do die (including my own this quarter). Deadlines exist for a reason, yes, as do late policies. But I hope that we all keep this spirit of compassion and empathy with our students as we enter into the next, post-pandemic phase of “normal.”
Karenna: One thing that I want to do in my fall in-person courses is to more thoughtfully check-in with students. I used to check in at the start and end of the semester and after each exam. During pandemic teaching (asynchronous, online courses), I checked in with students twice a week, every single week. Even in my face to face courses, I wouldn’t get to know ALL of my students quite as well as I did during my online experience, because my time was heavily favored by more extraverted students even in my “small” 30-person courses. I think I will be able to foster an even more robust learning community by doing these weekly check-ins.
Thanks again for this thoughtful question and opportunity to introspect. We also want to note that it might be useful to ask other colleagues at different career stages - would our 30 yr veteran instructors have similar insights? Or what about our colleagues who just started teaching this year, who don’t have a prototype for “normal?” Keep asking, and discussing, and thinking, and improving, and sharing with us what works for you!
Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee
Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.
Karenna Malavanti, Ph.D.
Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.
Molly Metz, Ph.D.
Janet Peters, Ph.D.
Daniel Storage, Ph.D.