Teaching Through the Coronavirus, Together: Wrapping Up Spring 2020, Laying the Groundwork for a Great SummerShare
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
A Message from Wendi Dew, Assistant Vice President, Teaching and Learning and Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs
Congratulations! Five weeks ago, we asked many of you to do the unthinkable: change your course modality more than halfway through a term — and you rose to the occasion with courage, herculean effort and great care for your students. In his new book “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto,” Kevin Gannon affirms that “teaching is a radical act of hope, … an assertion of faith in a better future in an increasingly uncertain and fraught present.” Although he could not have foreseen our specific “uncertain and fraught present,” we echo Gannon’s conviction and are deeply grateful for the steps you took to give students hope and support when they needed it, perhaps more than ever.
Today’s communication offers a quick reminder that the end of a term represents an opportunity for reflection and communication. We also include a few updates from Teaching and Learning, including an upcoming course on authentic assessment online.
Ending the Term with Communication and Reflection
“A semester is a marathon effort, and, by the time you reach the end of it, it’s quite possible that everyone — you and the students both — will be exhausted,” Georgetown University’s Teaching Commons reminds us. This term, that seems like quite an understatement. They recommend “one last thoughtful push [to] ensure that the course’s conclusion is meaningful in its own right.”
With grades due on Monday, we recommend a thoughtful “nudge” (vs. push) to provide students with a sense of closure and encouragement. Nothing fancy, perhaps a quick email, even a Canvas announcement could work. As we’ve mentioned, students from disadvantaged backgrounds often interpret bad grades as proof “that they do not belong in this strange culture of higher education” (Nilson, 2015, p. 9). Your end-of-term note could remind students that their course grades are measurements of their coursework at a given point in time and within circumstances often beyond their control, not absolute judgments of their belonging, worth or intelligence. As such, it may be most impactful to reach out to students who struggled.
We also echo the counsel of Mays Imad, coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Center and pathophysiology and biomedical ethics faculty at Pima Community College, that we use hopeful and optimistic language, and include forward-looking sentiments such as, “During your summer courses” or “When we return to our campuses …”
In addition to reaching out to students this week, we invite you to take a few moments to reflect on the Spring 2020 term. The University of Georgia Center for Teaching and Learning notes that reflection on our teaching “can be particularly useful after significant changes have been made to a course” and can also help inform our approach to teaching future courses. Given the larger-scale disruption to instruction we all experienced this semester, here are a few questions you might consider:
If these questions seem to miss your most relevant needs now, consider an open-ended question and offer yourself space to pause and reflect.
As the Summer term approaches, we encourage you to send a pre-term email to welcome students, establish an inviting learning environment, introduce the class syllabus and schedule, provide details on required course materials, emphasize student support services and jump-start your personal connection with students. Given that our learning (and living) conditions are still in flux, you might also reassure students that the course includes flexibility and describe course elements designed to help them succeed.
There are a couple of ways you could send this message: By this Friday, April 24, 2020, your Canvas courses will be populated with your summer student enrollments. Our colleagues in the Office of Information Technology will ensure that all Canvas courses are published at the start of term (the auto-publish script will begin on Sunday, May 3, 2020), yet if you publish your own course, you can send a pre-course message to students through the Canvas Inbox. If you prefer to not publish your course early, you can send a pre-course message to students through Atlas. Here, you might include information on how to log in to Canvas.
Teaching and Learning Update: Learning Outcomes Assessment
To focus on the immediate goal of meeting students’ needs in the online learning environment, the convening of the new Assessment Coordination Committee and Assessment Day have been purposefully postponed. The new Program Learning Outcomes Assessment model emphasizes deep collaboration and relies heavily on a support structure. As such, we expect the launch of the new model will be a timely re-engagement activity in the fall term.
This summer, let’s continue to prioritize enhancing online course-level assessment aligned to course learning outcomes. This natural work will become the evidence we need for determining improvements to implement in the next academic year.
For faculty interested in just-in-time-for-summer collaborative activities to adjust their course-level assessments and enhance each other’s capacity for authentic assessment in online courses, please join us for one of the Authentic Assessments Online (ASMT2910) Zoom Sessions: Thursday, April 30 from 7 – 8 a.m.; Thursday, April 30 from 10 – 11 a.m.; Thursday, April 30 from 8 – 9 p.m.; Friday, May 1 from 9 – 10 a.m.; and Friday, May 1 from 3 – 4 p.m.
Circling back to Gannon’s conviction that “teaching is a radical act of hope,” he acknowledges that this can be hard to remember when we’re caught up in the teaching grind (as when calculating and entering final grades!). Yet, Gannon suggests, “our most quotidian practices — even and especially in environments of adversity — are a constant assertion that through our work with and among students we are creating a better future.” Thank you for the work you do every day to create a better future for our students and community!
- Gannon, K. M. (2020). Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.
- Nilson, Linda B. (2015). Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time. Stylus.
*Note: This communication will be the last stand-alone edition of “Teaching through the Coronavirus, Together.” Future editions will be shared within the Faculty Insight.