Founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, The Journal on Excellence in College Teaching and the Learning Communities Journal
For many of us, the effects of the pandemic immediately changed our teaching and our
students’ learning. It became a time of survival and creativity in new virtual classrooms. Suddenly there was little time and energy for scholarship with respect to teaching and learning. However, now that we have had an opportunity to engage in pandemic-related teaching and learning for a year, it is time to seize this unusual opportunity for scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). The topic of teaching and learning during a pandemic has not been available during the 30-year existence of Boyer’s (1990) scholarship of pedagogy. The opportunity is available for SoTL scholars and those who may be new to such scholarship. This issue of the Scholarly Teacher describes seven steps for taking advantage of this opportunity.
Before describing this process, are there examples of such articles that have been published already? It may be too early to have and assess published research about the effectiveness of teaching and learning due to Covid-19 as well as remedies to address long-term impacts. For example, the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching has not yet published such an article as of July 2021. It takes time for articles in the pipeline to be reviewed and published.
Meanwhile, we can look back on what related research previous to this crisis has revealed about topics connected to the pandemic. Because my area of research is faculty learning communities, I’ll share a published article about a virtual faculty learning community (FLC) that was a structured community of practice (CoP). This CoP/FLC effectively created among its faculty participants a sense of belonging using a virtual-only approach and structure. “There is evidence that virtual CoPs are beneficial to the faculty participants’ sense of belonging based on feelings of validation, community, and teacher efficacy. Participants also stated that this experience would improve their teaching practices” (Cottom, Atwell, Martino & Ombres 2018, p.38). The authors indicate what structures and approaches made this virtual CoP effective. An article by Dickie (in press) provides additional SoTL research on what makes virtual CoPs successful. If we can build community for our students and faculty through creating a sense of belonging using virtual-only efforts, then let’s create and publish research that confirms these processes and structures, especially during times of crisis.
Now, here are seven steps that can lead to SoTL about teaching and learning during the pandemic.
1) Select a project, a teaching/learning/institutional problem or opportunity (the research question)
Describe your project: what you observed in your students’ behavior or institution’s approach that changed and what you did to address it: for example, aspects of content (topics, related test scores), process (ability to work in a group), or climate (morale, motivation). What did you do during your pandemic teaching that was different from your previous teaching? List learning objectives that you hoped students would achieve in your course before the pandemic and after implementing your project during the pandemic. Use active statements, such as, “After completing this course during the pandemic, my students were able to define (analyze, identify, etc.).” Do not use “understand” or other outcomes that cannot be directly measured.
2) Literature search and context
What have others done (at your institution, in your discipline, at other places) with respect to your project to address this problem or opportunity? What was different from others about your approach during the pandemic? If your project involved a particular course or program, briefly describe it (context). What will/did you investigate on databases and search engines? For insights, look at the programs of recent Lilly Conferences or use the search engine of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching at http://celt.muohio.edu/ject/ Ask librarians, your Teaching & Learning Center colleagues, and Google Scholar. Because the pandemic is so recent, there will be few articles addressing pandemic teaching and learning projects. This scarcity is also a reason that your manuscript could be welcomed and valued.
3) Proposed solution (intervention)
Design: How do/did you propose to address and solve the problem, opportunity, or question? Why did you conjecture that your approach would succeed better than other attempts or would work better with your students, course, or institution?
Design: What do/did you plan to use for comparison to show project change and impact: results from a previous course before the pandemic or institutional process or behavior in a course before initiation of your project during the pandemic? Pre- and post-surveys in your course? Retention change? Writing? Student work? Use of a control group (your own or another colleague)?
Design: How will/did you determine the effectiveness and impact of your solution?
Triangulate: select from use of surveys, Classroom Assessment Techniques, grades, retention, learning portfolios, student evaluations of teaching, and focus groups. If appropriate, use rubrics. Online items could include design, participation, and quality of discussion. Because the course you were teaching during the pandemic is probably completed at this time, you may need to look back and compare course outcomes of teaching and learning before the pandemic with teaching and learning in the course during the pandemic.
Prepare and submit a proposal for a campus presentation, get feedback, then submit for peer review for a conference presentation. Use steps 1-5 as outline. There are productive and supporting venues at Lilly Conferences.
Prepare and submit for peer review a manuscript leveraged, aligned, and informed by the feedback from your conference presentation. The Journal on Excellence in College Teaching has been publishing the scholarship of teaching and learning since 1990, and four issues are published each year. The call for manuscripts and manuscript guidelines are at http://celt.muohio.edu/ject/
In conclusion, I acknowledge that the pandemic has offered new and perplexing challenges to teaching and learning. However, it has also opened an unusual opportunity for new scholarship of teaching and learning. I encourage you to present and publish your teaching and learning projects, changes, and outcomes that the pandemic has presented you.
1. What one strategy did you employ during the pandemic that was different from your previous teaching? Why did you select this strategy? List learning objectives that you hoped would be realized as a result of the strategy you employed.
2. What one or two articles in the scholarship of teaching and learning literature are relevant to the strategy you employed? Summarize the similarities of the article(s) you found and how your strategy is different.
3. How will/did you determine the effectiveness and impact of your solution? Triangulate: select from use of surveys, Classroom Assessment Techniques, grades, retention, learning portfolios, student evaluations of teaching, and focus groups. What data from prepandemic teaching might you be able to use as a baseline for comparison?
Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Cottom, C., Atwell, A., Martino. L., & Ombres, S. (2018). Virtual community of practice: Connecting online adjunct faculty. Learning Communities Journal, 10, 27-40.
Dickie, M. v. G. (in press). The protégé effect and virtual communities of practice. Learning Communities Journal, 13.