Symposium Spotlights: Plenary Panel

Duke Learning Innovation co-hosted the 2021 Pandemic Pedagogy Research Symposium on May 5, alongside institutional partners the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan, Penn’s Online Learning Initiative, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton, and the Stanford Center for Professional Development. The Symposium featured presentations and panel discussions on new and emerging research related to teaching and learning during the pandemic with a focus on applied scholarship that advances the art and science of teaching. 

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The Symposium’s Plenary Panel featured higher education leaders who have been at the forefront of research and innovation in how universities teach and how students learn. Moderator Matthew Rascoff from Stanford University led this discussion focusing on the increasingly important role that research and data play in how we think about both the potential and the promise of education as a transformative experience. Below are some key takeaways from their discussion:

Gathering data to inform teaching

Though surveys were a primary source of data collection, survey fatigue began to set in and became a less reliable method for data collection. However, panelists found other sources that informed their responses to teaching during the pandemic, such as learning management system (LMS) data and using already-occurring faculty meetings (such as department or committee meetings) as focus groups.

The importance of empathy

Each panelist noted that the pandemic created and exposed challenges many students experience outside of class that affect their ability to engage and succeed, and highlighted the importance of empathy for students, faculty and staff. Dr. Manturuk shared an example of how empathy for faculty was created within Learning Innovation: “We had everyone who was involved with our organization, all the way up to our Vice Provost, in those office hours hearing what faculty were trying to deal with. And that created such a culture of empathy within our organization. That has continued to benefit us and is something that I really hope we continue going forward.”

Post-pandemic plans

The panelists anticipate that the on-campus experience will be affected in a few ways. Dr. Mitchell believes that the next school year will be one of transition, with students making up for lost experiences and socialization. He also noted that students may have increased expectations that higher education institutions become more proactive regarding social and racial justice issues. Regarding the use of technology in teaching, Dr. Stein shared, “I know we left a world that was fully immersed in person and we moved to this world that is fully online, but when we go back I think we’ll go back to something that’s a mix.” All panelists expressed hope and intentions that the successful and student-centric pedagogical practices instructors adopted during the pandemic continue.

We thank our panelists Dr. Rebecca Stein, Dr. Katherine Stanton, Dr. Caitlin Howard, Dr. John Mitchell and Dr. Kim Manturuk for participating in this discussion.