Science shows that learning often happens in a situation that introduces an element of novelty or disruption, resulting in our brain forging new neural pathways. I see that process as somewhat like ambling down a new hiking trail rather than a familiar one–in doing so we will hear a new bird song or spy a colorful flower or ponder what the landscape may have looked like a decade or a century ago. Those sparks of wonder and curiosity build powerful and lasting learning moments.
It’s with that thought in mind that I consider how the pandemic has enlivened teaching on our campus. In this past year every single Chapman University instructor had to re-think, re-build, and thoughtfully plan each lesson to ensure connection with content and with their class community. It’s no surprise that student course evaluations persistently show higher-than-normal scores and that every faculty member is stretching themselves even further to engage their students. In this milieu we have gained skills and approaches that will inform our teaching practices for the remainder of our careers.
I’m mindful of this as I watched the HyFlex teaching talks given by our peers during JanCon, which exhibited such creativity and persistence. It is also front of mind as I consider how the culture of teaching on our campus will never be the same as it was pre-COVID. Consider what teaching was like then: we had low adoption of Blackboard, faculty did not have Zoom licenses for online office hours, and the largest faculty complaints about classrooms were generally about whether they had ample whiteboard space. Since March we have burst open the walls of our classrooms and have introduced Canvas, Zoom, and an entire suite of ancillary digital tools. In that process we’ve learned that whiteboards can be created and shared on any digital device and no longer need to be drilled into the drywall of our physical meeting spaces.
Thus, my question to you now, is this: how will you carry forward what you have learned about teaching during a pandemic when we return to the familiarity of face-to-face teaching? What specific tools or approaches have worked so well for you and your subject matter, that they will continue to augment your on-campus instruction? I have many ideas of my own on this subject but for now I would really like to learn from you. When you have time please reach out via Teams or drop into my weekly Faculty Office Hour (Tuesdays 1-2) and let’s chat about your teaching. I am all ears.