Sharing Our Teaching Successes and Challenges in the COVID Era

Round Table Discussion


Cody Kirkpatrick, Indiana University-Bloomington
Steph Courtney, Auburn University Main Campus

Since March 2020, we have been forced to evolve our teaching philosophies and classroom strategies in ways never before imagined. What has worked great for you? What hurdles have you faced, and how have you worked to overcome them?  How might your teaching be different in the "post-pandemic" era?  At this round table, let's come together to celebrate our successes and mutter about our challenges.  Both experienced and new teachers, at all levels, are encouraged to attend and share.

Discussion Notes

Successes (and how to continue those moving forward)

Classroom activities that can be adapted to online or strengthened that way

  • Social annotation to feel more comfortable sharing challenges in class
  • Perusall free tools; Hypothesis (canvas integration); Tophat (paid)
  • Still presents challenges with students who don't have or bring laptops

Shifting to new tools that we discovered only because of online needs – jamboards

  • Live-writing and adding content brings content to better pacing where we're all working simultaneously – and have permanent record of that work – jamboard or powerpoint annotation

Check-ins and emotional honesty

  • Adapting pedagogy to the needs of students and instructors; relationship building
  • Warm-up question by QR code, answer on phone, anonymous share-out; added check-in questions, how are you doing? What's going on? Can be responsive to student realities and needs
  • Acknowledging student and teachers' whole selves
  • Also acknowledging that takes a lot of emotional labor, administrative assignments to take on student mental health – we all have mental health needs and the institutions need to provide professional services and practitioners!
  • Help students to build community, classroom as a space to make friends, so we can support students in finding their own support systems

Students opened up more online – easier to chat when feeling more anonymous, building community online from synchronous meetings – naturally and spontaneously

  • Marginalized and non-dominant students especially feel more comfortable speaking up in chat, less pressure to be correct
  • GroupMe or other messaging service to use in class for question or comment submissions, possibly more comfortable and may encourage participation; compare with chat/messaging that may be embedded in your LMS

Challenges (and how to ameliorate those moving forward)

Most post-its: burnout and overwork; having to do everything myself

  • Challenge: Burnout for students as well – dual hostage situation
  • Shared idea/solution: Reduced workload in class – benefits both students and instructors
    • Missed some content – but not overall detrimental, probably because it was a stand-alone intro course, especially because large
  • Shared idea/solution: Shifted to ungrading – reduced stress AND increased engagement
    • No letter or number grades – give feedback in form of clarifying questions, reflections with guided questions, self-assigned grades, then reflect, meet, and negotiate final outcome – same amount of work but more fulfilling – benefits for instructor and students
    • Share most compelling ungrading resource?
    • How to implement in large enrollment classes?
    • Explicitly discussed learning outcomes as focus rather than grades
    • A past student of ungrading – moving to a grading instructor is challenging
    • "Focus on the point, not the points"

Participation and attendance

  • Challenge: Same students transition from online to in-classroom – poor participation in both places
  • Shared idea/solution: Accountability – give students a specific end-point or deliverable when doing an activity in class, even if just a share-out upon return
  • Shared idea/solution: Online engagement before class to use as a prompt in class – like canvas discussion, show on screen in class
  • Shared idea/solution: Use digital tools to make new kinds of assignments
  • Shared idea/solution: Group exams as follow-up for difficult questions on initial multiple choice test; rely on each other for success, inspiration and preparation to take advantage of group work opportunities more often
    • Can add to an explicit grading rubric, contributions to group collaboration
    • Normalizing uncertainty and being new to the content – that's why we're in this class, it's new content

Hybrid/Hy-flex class requirements leading to student expectation that they can join online at all times if they want

  • Challenge: Good in theory to allow students with any sickness to stay home – but feels untenable to instructors
  • Challenge: Many experienced huge attrition in attendance – affects students who maintain attendance
  • Challenge: Need for instructor to split their attention is the biggest challenge, a student either on screen or in class will be neglected
  • Shared idea/solution: Jamboards, collaborative documents, Kahoot, tools that allow in- and out-of-cass students to collaborate in real time

Easy for an online instructor to lecture for an entire class – but that's not how we want to teach and it's tiring

  • Challenge: Easier for faculty to be lazy with the transition when we thought it might just be temporary; didn't realize it would be a commitment; but then get in the rhythm that's difficult to break out of
  • Challenge: Wary of making students work in groups in the classroom and increasing their physical contact – not wanting to give another reason to avoid coming to class
  • Shared idea/solution: Remind yourself to return to best practices – in Fall, will bring back small in-class exercises, 20 minute lecture then the activities including drawings solo and as a class, student critique and collaboration
  • Shared idea/solution: Ease students back into interaction after they're used to solo work

Need for frequent additional accommodations

  • Challenge: Felt that students sometimes might have avoided the classroom for the sake of convenience; added extra work on instructors – extra hybrid teaching requirements
  • Shared idea/solution: Syllabus needs to be very specific to address situations like this – if you miss more than X in-class meetings then we need to meet and talk about it and find solutions
  • Shared idea/solution: Set standards together at the start
  • One shared approach: trying to avoid posting class recordings, but provide slides and encourage coming to meet and go over material

Identified need: dedicated time and planning to new content, new logistics, new strategies