We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”
—Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam, speech at Riverside Church in New York, April 1967
As one of the initial cohorts of POD Writes, our group of faculty, administrators, and educational developers came together in the fall of 2019 to write on this prompt: “What are the qualities of the ‘now’ that make teaching and learning an urgent, if not a moral, imperative?” This question arose from Randy Bass’s reflections on his original piece “The Scholarship of Teaching: What’s the Problem?” (Bass, 1999) and alludes to the Martin Luther King Jr. quotation that begins this article. Then the pandemic hit.
The events of 2020 fostered an explosion of creative responses to new demands of higher education, both in our rapid shift to remote instruction and the widespread call for anti-racist pedagogy and institutional change. Throughout that spring, we struggled greatly with the emotional, psychological, and physical weight of our world but continued to meet to write because of our shared belief for teaching and learning as an urgent, if not a moral, imperative for our current times of crises. During our writing process, we felt at the same time angry, confused, hopeless, hopeful, empowered, and powerless. As we looked inward and grappled with our own privilege, white or otherwise, we asked ourselves how our work is complicit in perpetuating systemic inequalities and then how, as educational developers, we can facilitate “teachable moments” for the faculty and institutions we serve. We returned to Bass to help guide our writing: “We need to provide students an education that is maximally responsive to the complexities of our times” (Donahoe, 2020). Ultimately, we wondered, how can we promote action among our colleagues and ourselves to begin dismantling such inequitable structures? When those in the future find academia’s jumbled residues, how can we ensure that the pathetic words “Too late” are not etched on our work?
The qualities of the now can paint a dispiriting picture for higher education—climate crises, white supremacy, racism, student basic needs insecurities—all in addition to a worldwide pandemic. Higher education is faced with what Rittel and Webber (1973) termed “wicked problems.” Yet revisiting his original essay and asking “What’s the problem now?” Bass (2020) notes that one cannot consider the qualities of the now without taking into account all of the tragedies of the day. “It is impossible to think about the task of this article—and about the meaning of the now—without thinking about the collision between a tragic event and a center for teaching and learning and about so many others like them” (p. 4). He continues, “I think about all of the practices in centers for teaching carried out by educational developers whose devotion to the advancement of learning unfolds in the context of local and world events, social discourse, and even the existential threats of the coming decade” (p. 4).
It is within this context of crises that we situate this article as we share our stories through narrative and reflective practice. Narrative and story have been used as a research tool to examine educational developers’ negotiation of identity while participating in cross-cultural residencies through story (Cruz et al., 2018) and to investigate the experience of faculty in academic work to inform educational developers (Jones, 2011). We present in this article our individual reflections addressing the urgent qualities of the now, qualities that represent hope and action while working in a world in crisis. Each narrative provides context and practice that speak to our work’s moral imperative. We include the subjects of flexibility in the face of crises, technology and ethics, study abroad exposure to ethical challenges, students’ growing anxiety and mental health, modeling metacognition with peers and students, and considerations of pedagogy in our times, all within a mindset of recent events. Our narratives aim to help our colleagues become resilient in preparing for ongoing upheavals and unexpected crises while pursuing more inclusive communities.
In summary, we share the stories of our individual and collective experiences with the goal of building resilience and fostering inclusive communities. Throughout our careers, we each faced a crisis or a challenge in American higher education. Although the writing of this article began months before the pandemic, each author here reflects on their circumstances based on their discipline, institutional type, geographic location, and role as an educator. Moreover, as we narrate difficult situations through our different lenses, we collectively present this article as an artifact and acknowledge what is common to us all: a passion for delivering high-quality education in a changing environment. Whether that environment is local, national, or global, the one constant is that educational developers have to adapt, as we did in responding to the crisis of a pandemic, the death of George Floyd, and multiple other tragedies during the production of this article. While this presentation is a snapshot in time, our life experiences will resonate with those who choose academia both today and tomorrow as our stories underscore the “urgency of now” as we lived it.
Flexibility, Communication, Compassion, and Perseverance: Carrying on Through Crises
By Gigi Gokcek
Until 2020, schools across the United States that experienced tragedies such as mass shootings and devastating hurricanes were catapulted into the national spotlight and experienced disruptions from a few days to several weeks.1 One could say we collectively often shrugged off incidents that did not impact us directly as these were crises happening somewhere else. This individualized approach to crisis management on campuses took on an entirely new meaning in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing schools across the country and the world to shut down and deliver instruction remotely. Within this context and with the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, faculty everywhere realized that what was once the responsibility of, or was deferred to, staff on campus trained to manage crises was now every individual’s responsibility to navigate.
My own journey in building resilience in a time of crisis begins prior to the COVID-19 pandemic as a faculty member living and teaching at a small Northern California private university. Starting in the fall of 2017 and each subsequent year, our campus community grew accustomed to disruptions as the university regularly shut down for up to a week several times throughout the semester. Initially, closing was to keep everyone on campus safe in response to poor air quality resulting from wildfires, but later closure was because of planned power outages to avert future fires. As a teacher, I yearned for tips on how to offer a high-quality education to my students while we endured the disruptions of wildfire season. I learned from the experience of educators around the world that flexibility, communication, compassion, and perseverance help carry one through a crisis. While I adopted these suggestions to remain an effective educator during an annual region-specific crisis, starting in 2020, I applied them as a school dean to support faculty teaching online because of the pandemic.
Campuses often have individuals, such as deans, ready to support faculty with students who are in need of accommodations, are navigating learning differences, are facing homelessness and food scarcity, cannot pay for books, or are living with a mental or physical illness. On many campuses, campus, access, retention, and equity (CARE) teams take over where faculty feel unqualified to address pressing student issues. The year 2020 shined a national spotlight on what happens when an entire campus needs care. When an unexpected crisis strikes, everyone on campus must maneuver through that perilous time together. Although the university’s CARE team can provide a support system to keep the campus community functioning, the pressing question is how might faculty adjust their courses to minimize risk to their students and themselves?
In preparation for the unimaginable, centers for teaching and learning (CTLs) and university leadership may hold workshops and retreats to make certain faculty are prepared to navigate a crisis. The first suggestion to prepare for such uncertainty is to design a flexible course syllabus so instructors can get through content without overburdening students (Joshi et al., 2018). In 2018, when Hurricane Florence devastated the East Coast, the University of North Carolina Wilmington had to shut down for approximately one month, and assignments had to be altered. Professors must build ways to address unanticipated disruptions into their courses to continue teaching content should it become difficult to hold regular class meetings. We are all becoming more adept at emulating the practice of faculty in New Zealand, where, in 2011 following a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Christ-church, faculty at the University of Canterbury “adapted to teaching in tents on the car park or in approved buildings off-campus. Courses were shortened by one to three weeks and students were required to become stronger independent learners” (Lord, 2011, p. 591).
Second, technology can meet an important need to communicate effectively with all students and offer them hope in a time of crisis. Often during a crisis, administrators and staff communicate regularly with the university community on campus status. Faculty can maintain contact directly with the students enrolled in the class or through a communication tree system. Emails, social media, video chats, calls, and texting can serve that purpose. We learned in 2020 that Zoom (and similar technology) makes it easier to stay connected, as long as there is power and access.
Third, faculty need not just adapt but also show compassion during a period of uncertainty. During a localized crisis, some students will be more directly impacted than others. While there may be counselors available to help those in need, professors must demonstrate their own willingness to accommodate students by making alternative arrangements for course assignments. This is where creative thinking is important because a student may be physically unable to complete an assignment because of lack of access to technology or be emotionally unable because they are more directly impacted by the crisis because of displacement or worse (Fillmore et al., 2011). During the COVID-19 pandemic, professors had to accommodate students who wanted to stay enrolled but were unable to meet on campus in person. Under these kinds of circumstances, assignments can be altered to convey the same course content without putting undue pressure on students who are unable to meet the requirements laid out in the original syllabus. Due dates can be extended to give students time to recover and still perform at their best. Also, the crisis can be invoked as a teaching tool when relevant to course content. After the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, some faculty at surrounding universities and colleges “changed their original plans for class upon realizing that their students needed to discuss the crisis” (Hosek & Austin, 2016, p. 71). In doing so, faculty create normalcy for students and enable them to earn credit while reflecting on their own experiences in the now.
Finally, faculty can model behavior by seeking help when they need to persevere through the crisis. We expect faculty to set examples for students. But faculty can be displaced or suffer loss just as students during a major crisis. During the pandemic, all faculty were impacted one way or another, at least initially when teaching had to move online but also in the months that followed as health protocols dictated whether instruction could take place in person. Either faculty were on campus teaching while wearing face masks or at home conducting virtual classes while attending to children, partners, and pets. Everyone experienced hardship from the pandemic. The best way to show our students that we can persevere through unforeseen tragedy or crises, such as a global pandemic, is to reach out and ask for help when we need it. As educational developers, we can provide the training and knowledge to faculty before a crisis strikes so that they will be prepared to teach effectively through crisis with flexibility, communication, compassion, and perseverance.
Technology Is a Moral Conundrum
By Lisa Hatfield
Conversations about the digital divide have been swirling for some time but have been amplified multifold during the COVID-19 pandemic after K–12 and higher education quickly went online. Included in these conversations are questions about not only access to technologies but also the inclusivity of them. Recently, a faculty member whom I admire and respect asked our center for teaching and learning to bar a particular tool we have in our learning management system. This was requested because of concern that the tool, which touched on learning analytics, would negatively affect students’ self-esteem if they did poorly on an assignment and thus provide a detrimental and perhaps exclusive learning environment.
I was left in an ethical quandary. A part of me wanted to educate faculty on what the tool can do, discuss the implications of using it and any of the myriad choices, and share better teaching practices for all our tools. Also, if we barred this tool, we would set a precedent for doing so with others. Faculty should have some reasonable amount of autonomy in deciding which tools are appropriate for each learning situation. But, then, where is the line? Is there anything in our technological toolkit, in our academic technologies, that should not be allowed, especially if they may create more exclusivity than inclusivity? Do any of our tools perpetuate systemic inequities?
Even before the pandemic, online trends suggested these ethical questions surrounding technology were going to stay with us indefinitely as the popularity of online courses continues to grow even though enrollment in higher education is declining overall (Seaman et al., 2018). In the fall of 2016, nearly 32% of all students in higher education in the United States were taking at least one online course, and nearly 15% of all students were taking courses exclusively online (Seaman et al., 2018). At the time of this article’s writing, entire universities and university systems remain online, though many are preparing to transition to face-to-face and hybrid courses. According to Muller et al. (2019), online learning has moved away from the periphery of higher education and is “becoming a central component of institutional strategies for increasing student enrollment, retention, and completion” (p. 4). The reality is that digital technologies are not only in the here and now but will remain in the here and future, perhaps even more so because of the pandemic.
As online learning has moved by choice or by pandemic into the mainstream, discussion of ethics in digital environments and in the use of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence will continue to proliferate. In particular, many conversations about ethics in technology center on the use of learning analytics, specifically in three areas: (1) the location and interpretation of data; (2) informed consent, privacy, and the de-identification of data; and (3) the management, classification, and storage of data (Slade & Prinsloo, 2013). Learning analytics here is defined as the collection, analysis, use, and appropriate dissemination of student-generated, actionable data with the purpose of creating appropriate cognitive, administrative, and effective support for learners. Slade and Prinsloo (2013) question the power relations among learners, institutions, and other stakeholders and the impact of surveillance; they advocate a need for transparency. Scholes (2016) acknowledges the ethical concerns raised by Slade and Prinsloo and others but extends the question and asks about the ethics of subjecting an individual to an intervention on the basis of information about group risk. Lastly, there remains the question of who owns student data such as how they fared on an assignment. Is it faculty? The institution? Someone or something else? Learning analytics can raise concerns about discrimination, identity, and agency of students.
To give some ethical guidance, 55 educators, scientists, and scholars gathered in 2014 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in California to develop a framework for guiding decisions regarding the use of data and technology in learning research for higher education. Basing this framework on the 1973 Code of Fair Information Practices and the Belmont Report of 1979, the group agreed that digital ethical decisions must be guided by (1) respect for the rights and dignity for learners, (2) beneficence, (3) justice, (4) openness, (5) the humanity of learning, and (6) continuous consideration (Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education, 2014). In addition, Quality Matters (2018), which certifies that online courses meet certain criteria, supports openness and has as one of its standards that the course provides learners with information on protecting their data and privacy.
If we are using technology to center the learner and to create a more equitable learning environment, then we must be open and forthright in all that we do. We must be prepared to share with students why we do what we do and if the tools we have access to fail to create equitable learning environments. Faculty will approach learning analytics and digital tools differently; however, as a CTL, we must be prepared to answer questions about how such tools can impact the diversity of learners individually and collectively. This situation made me think that as a CTL, we need to go back to our values statement and revisit it in this context and with the hindsight of our experiences in moving everything online.
As it turned out, the faculty member decided not to pursue barring the tool. As always, the faculty member was a consummate colleague and appreciative of the conversation. However, another faculty member may not be so gracious. This experience has taught me that in all our policies and practices, we need to be prepared to explain why we consider our practices ethical and equitable. And we must own that they may not be. We also must be sure to reason for ourselves which technology can be for the benefit of inclusive student learning and which technology exists simply because it can. Yes, it is imperative a CTL act ethically and equitably; perhaps the larger imperative is that we are prepared to explain exactly why we believe what we are doing is so. As long as CTLs keep asking themselves if they are centering inclusive student learning, I remain hopeful, regardless of what the “now” brings.
Promoting Ethical Education Now: High-Impact Practices and Study Abroad
By Annette Finley-Croswhite
We live in a time witnessing the resurgence of extreme nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, and white supremacy, all threatening democratic traditions and liberal education. The world is also experiencing a significant increase in racism, visible in forms of hate speech, vandalism, physical attacks, and murder. As global uncertainty fuels ancient hatreds on the far right and far left, the availability of online platforms facilitate the ability of hate groups to spread propaganda. Even so, George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 as well as the violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander and trans communities during the pandemic has galvanized awareness about the prevalence of racialized violence in the United States and added urgency to demands for social justice.
The turmoil caused by the pandemic has engaged CTLs in myriad ways to help faculty prepare for difficult classroom conversations. This leadership role will in no way be diminished once colleges and universities reinstate face-to-face instruction inclusive of study abroad programs returning to traditional travel courses even while expanding the virtual forms of experiential learning developed during the pandemic. CTLs perform vital roles as linchpins connecting divisions on college campuses to promote high-impact practices such as study abroad as well as the reflective practices that are essential to post-travel implementation of lessons learned.
Antisemitism is on the rise in the United States as well as in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, exposing its global reach. A 2019 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey indicated that 1.9 billion people in the world hold antisemitic beliefs, and a 2020 survey revealed that 61% of Americans agreed with at least one antisemitic stereotype (ADL, 2020a). According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents rose by 57% in the United States in 2017 (ADL, 2020b). The 2017 alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, produced violent antisemitic rhetoric and use of Nazi images, and the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, proved to be the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States. In this context, college and university campuses are not immune, with antisemitic and racist incidents of all kinds on the rise since the 2016 election. Faculty and students are feeling more anxious about hateful behaviors, creating a sense of emergency. Many have been assaulted or threatened via cyberattacks (ADL, 2020b; Bauman, 2018; Jaschik, 2018).
Nearly every spring, in my dual roles as director of my university’s Center for Faculty Development and professor of history, I take students from my university to Europe to study antisemitism and the Holocaust. To explore this violent past, one often hears the familiar declaration “never again” even though genocides continue to occur throughout the world. When we explore the more nuanced meaning behind “never again,” however, we connect to Nobel laureate and Professor Elie Wiesel’s focus on memory and his belief that memory offers a way to save humanity (Burger, 2018; Wiesel, 1986). For Wiesel, memory is a reflective practice and when engaged imbues students with ethical awareness to create a transformative approach to education. This kind of deep learning is revealed in study abroad, where students can become sensitized to human suffering and realize the importance of individual action, building resiliency of thought and deed.
As a high-impact practice, study abroad encourages active learning and offers students opportunities to encounter complex global problems en route to becoming global citizens. My goal is for students to return home better able to identify and fight racism in all its forms. Referencing this kind of ethical education, Wiesel believed students will “investigate and embrace new ways of thinking, learn new habits of questioning and ultimately find a deeper sense of common humanity” (Burger, 2018, p. 32).
In 2019, my students and I traveled deep into a Polish forest to Holocaust killing sites identified only a few days before we arrived. One of my students sang the Mourner’s Kaddish for the first time for the victims buried there, transforming our group into custodians of memory, witnesses of sorts to the atrocities committed long before. In a world where Holocaust memory is fading, my students encounter stories of past lives and their brutal demise, hopefully becoming more empathetic to human experience and aware of the terrible ramifications of antisemitism.
Desired outcomes of most study abroad programs are to increase intercultural competency, encourage global learning, and create global citizens. Most traditional study abroad offerings, over 60%, are like mine: short-term experiences lasting 10 days to eight weeks. Fewer students have the financial means or show a preference for semester or year-long study abroad programs. Thus, while faculty want study abroad courses to be transformative experiences, challenges are often linked to the shortness of time, with a risk that these trips will become little more than academic tourism (Keese & O’Brien, 2011; Mule et al., 2018; Schenker, 2019). Because study abroad courses are also quite expensive, the student composition reflects race and class inequalities within American society. Underrepresented students and students of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to study abroad, diminishing the diversity such courses often purport to promote (Simon & Ainsworth, 2012). Research indicates study abroad tends to be the domain of affluent, white, female students. The National Association of International Education (NAFSA, 2020) revealed that in 2017 to 2018 only 1.7% of college students studied abroad. Of that cohort, 70% were white, whereas only 6.1% were African American. My own experience confirms this trend—14.5% of the students I took to Europe between 2013 and 2019 were African American, and 77% were female.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created even greater challenges to global education. When the pandemic began, colleges and universities struggled to ensure the safety of international students, bring students studying in other countries back home, cancel study abroad trips, and confront changing Immigration and Customs Enforcement regulations imposed on newly enrolled international students and their ability to enter the United States to take courses delivered via online instruction. As schools reopen, it is unlikely, however, that study abroad programs will be restarted immediately. When they do, given the pandemic’s economic impact on families, the likelihood of such programs becoming even more the domain of affluent, white females is quite high. These circumstances threaten to maintain the systemic inequity within the institutional structures of study abroad that most colleges and universities have realized but done little to correct. Incorporating marginalized voices in discussions about where students want to study would be a major step toward making significant changes to study abroad programs (Sweeney, 2013).
To address the challenges of the “now,” global education can offer students transformational experiences and help them develop their sense of social and ethical responsibility. Educational developers need to be ready to promote this kind of deep learning by collaborating with study abroad offices to enhance the academic rigor of offerings and to raise the profile beyond educational tourism to engage ethical conversations. Faculty development is central to uniting academic and non-academic offices to explore critical themes and concerns tied to effective instruction. Educational developers also work with faculty members on best practices for managing the emotional labor involved in moving students toward global citizenry and ways to devise and disseminate the reflective artifacts of study abroad courses. To meet the intricacies revealed in the short-term study abroad dynamic, students need to be uncomfortable and then have time to reflect on what they learn while away from their college or university (Chickering & Braskamp, 2009; Schaub, 2009).
If study abroad experiences happen virtually during and post-COVID, faculty need to figure out how the virtual experience can address critical global problems such as antisemitism, and CTLs must be ready to provide this kind of assistance. Educational developers must also promote the participation of underrepresented faculty and staff in study abroad programs, engage the development of inclusive teaching practices within study abroad, help fundraise to enhance study abroad scholarship monies for lower-income students, and provide study abroad opportunities for underrepresented students. Most importantly, educational developers are uniquely situated to help faculty embed global learning into the curriculum and co-curricular activities so that students confront a variety of learning environments to enhance their intercultural humility, making the acquisition of global understanding less of a restricted experience for the privileged few (Landorf et al., 2018; Simon & Ainsworth, 2012). Educational developers can enhance this work by joining the Collaborative Online International Learning network sponsored by the State University of New York (https://coil.suny.edu), a platform offering cost-effective virtual exchange connecting students and faculty around the world with the stated vision of producing future leaders free of bias. These approaches will also mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s destructive impact on global education. In each of these instances, educational developers can lead the way with training, workshops, critical conversations, global collaborations, and explorations of reflective practices.
Educational developers form critical partnerships with study abroad offices and faculty leaders to engage students in global learning. When I return from study abroad trips to Holocaust sites, I stage a campus-wide event sponsored by the Center for Faculty Development and the Office of Study Aboard. The university and local communities are invited to come and listen to students reflect on their experiences and engage the audience in meaningful dialogue. During these events, students begin to act in their new roles as global citizens, expound on their commitment to ethical behaviors, and use their voices to embrace anti-racism. Post-pandemic virtual events can incorporate international invitees as well through the use of various technologies and platforms. Course websites and blogs, presentations at undergraduate research symposiums, and student publications further expand the broad impact of student learning and reflective practices and give hope that social justice is possible if not now, in the near future (Berdan, 2015; Finley-Croswhite, 2014; Rowan-Kenyon & Niehaus, 2011).
Mitigating Crises Within Crises: How to Help Our Students and Ourselves in Exceptional Times
By Hanna E. Norton
Student anxiety is making its way into my classroom more each year. Common phrases I would hear in the era before the COVID-19 pandemic and recent racial watershed moments included:
“My anxiety medication has been changed recently, so I may be a bit off.”
“I’m seeing a counselor to deal with my anxiety and depression.”
“I’m sorry for missing class. I just haven’t been able to get out of bed and I don’t know what’s wrong.”
I am always gratified that students feel comfortable to share, but I’m worried for these students. I’m also concerned for future employers hiring these individuals. We are living in anxious times filled with stress-inducing events, especially for students beginning to navigate the adult world.
In the past, there was a definitive stigma associated with mental “illness” versus health. People and students were left to cope in isolation. The rise of the internet positively impacted the amount and availability of information on the subject. And social media offered a venue for connection among like-minded people, including our students with anxiety. Yet for the opportunities social media offers to connect with others experiencing anxiety, it can also contribute to “psychological distress” and depression (Keles et al., 2020). From my conversations with students, there is definite concern regarding the fear of missing out, and it is not uncommon for students to remove social media posts that don’t garner the positive traction anticipated.
In this changed and changing environment, it is obvious that anxiety will not decrease among our students (or colleagues). As someone who works in educational development for my campus, I am passionate about how best to amplify and partner with student affairs colleagues and ultimately other campuses to best prepare faculty and staff for working with students with anxiety.
A 2019 publication of Leadership Exchange from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) focused its entire issue on these concerns. NASPA’s president refers to the “World Health Organization’s World Mental Health International College Student Initiative” and its 2018 findings, which noted that “35% of respondents reported symptoms consistent with at least one mental health disorder” (Kruger, 2019, p. 4). The American College Health Association (2019) found that within the last 12 months, 55.9% of respondents “felt things were hopeless,” 70.8% “felt very sad,” and 65.7% “felt overwhelming anxiety” (pp. 13–14).
While ample research exists on the rise of student mental health concerns, the research and studies on methods to address these issues in the classroom are far fewer. One study of note discusses the benefits of yoga and meditation for reducing students’ anxiety levels (Lemay et al., 2019). For the pilot study at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, 17 students participated in an hour-long yoga class followed by guided meditation with trained faculty. Results were promising for all participants: “Students’ anxiety and stress scores decreased significantly while their total mindfulness increased significantly” (Lemay et al., p. 749). The article supports integrating mindfulness practices into curricula.
Another study showed how undergraduate students’ social anxiety could be impacted positively through flipped learning and cooperative activities (Eryilmaz & Cigdemoglu, 2019). From my own experience teaching with high-impact practices, students engage with one another and form a unit, allowing greater opportunity for peer support. We must also be willing to infuse teaching with a trauma-informed approach grounded in critical pedagogy that mitigates triggering or perpetuating students’ traumatic experiences while in our classrooms (Carello & Butler, 2015; Zurbriggen, 2011). Most encouraging was the study speaking directly to 2,776 students. The researchers argue for a partnership to exist between the institution and its students, wherein students’ suggestions for campus and course interaction are validated (Baik et al., 2019).
There will be new research examining how crises are forcibly restructuring how we teach and the institutions we serve. We must prepare faculty for intentional conversations with our students about the current status of racial inequality in our country and how we must do more and better. And yet the central concern remains: How do we best serve students and colleagues who are suffering? To address this question, we must view this issue not just from an educational mindset but also from the standpoint of concerned citizens. Practically speaking, how do we work with our campus administration and across campuses to provide networks of resources, updated techniques, and data to best inform our practices? More than ever, it is not merely our professional impetus; it is our moral imperative.
Metacognition as a Path Forward
By Cynthia H. DeMartino
One of the major “qualities of now” in our global society is the specter of societal collapse. This fear is concurrent with leaders who are unwilling or unable to acknowledge that certain existential problems even exist. Leaders denying climate change and downplaying the pandemic crisis heighten significant societal anxiety. To many, not facing these issues seems negligent. However, avoidance and denial are common and predictable reactions to complex and dire problems. We see this denial at the national level but also in universities, departments, and within individual instructors and students. What can we do as educational developers to help the individuals in our communities become resilient and brave enough to wrestle with the extreme complexities of the now?
In my own life, I was able to start to deal with external crises only after I turned inward and acknowledged my own avoidance tactics, biases, and cognitive limitations. This work of critical self-reflection can take multiple forms, but for this discussion I will refer to it all as metacognition. Metacognition is most simply defined as thinking about one’s thinking, although it is a complex topic with “fuzzy” boundaries that span multiple fields (Gascoine et al., 2017). Efklides (2008) defines it as a multifaceted concept involving experiences, knowledge, and skills related to the monitoring and controlling of cognition. This process is not just difficult for researchers to define; it is also hard for individuals to conceptualize and engage in (Veenman et al., 2006), especially if they are novices (Hacker et al., 2000). However, metacognitive tactics can be taught and practiced so that the biases and shortcuts our brains make can be at least partially circumvented to allow us to learn skills faster (Donker et al., 2014) and make better decisions (Batha & Carroll, 2007), and they can be effective in treating mental health conditions (Philipp et al., 2019).
At this moment in particular, we have been given time to pause and reflect on what we, as a global community, have built. We can look at ourselves in the mirror and decide to be different—and metacognition is just such a mirror. It is the turning of the mind’s eye onto itself. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how fragile the systems we build are, even though many narratives present them as inevitable and eternal. We now have an opportunity to create new systems that serve all our communities. But it will take the cognitive maturity and humility stemming from systematic and unapologetic self-examination.
Metacognitive skills are positively associated with retention/memory, learning in the classroom and on one’s own, and persisting in stressful situations (de Boer et al., 2012). For those benefits alone, educational developers should have a kit of metacognitive skill-building tools for faculty and student interventions. But metacognition is so much more. These skills engender the habit of reflecting on one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions in ways that make us better humans. I have seen a student heartbroken as he realized the media he consumed daily had negatively impacted the way he sees the world (see Pfefferbaum et al., 2014, a review of Gerbner’s mean world syndrome). I have also seen that same student excited to teach his son different habits to change his child’s brain for the better.
As educational developers, we have many ways to integrate metacognition into workshops, collaborations, and events. I have found several useful tools for these purposes:
Newport’s (2016) Deep Work for understanding the cognitive limitations we have but also the great wealth of creativity, brilliance, and wisdom we can tap into: https://www.calnewport.com/books/deep-work/
Meditation and mindfulness practices from a variety of traditions that encourage being in the moment, not identifying with your thoughts, and being lovingly kind to yourself and others
The goal of using these kinds of resources for educational developers is to get faculty to not only start incorporating and modeling metacognition skills for themselves but also teach them to their students. As long as we strive to improve ourselves and help others become resilient through introspection, then we will not be too late.
Pedagogy of the Now
By Julie Maxson
The events of the spring and summer terms of 2020 compelled faculty, students, and faculty developers into new approaches to pedagogy. Across higher education, as at my own institution, the largest impacts have come in urgent responses to two seismic shifts: first, in the sudden necessity for remote, technology-facilitated teaching and, second, in a greatly deepened understanding of societal and institutional racism.
In March 2020, roughly half of higher education faculty disagreed with the idea “online learning helps students learn effectively” (Brooks & Grajek, 2020). In my university system, resistance seemed to come most often from faculty in laboratory and field sciences; in fields emphasizing live, interpersonal communication (e.g., nursing, counseling); and in career and technical fields requiring students to develop facility in use of specific equipment (e.g., programs in culinary arts, medical technology, or welding).
Since then, nearly all faculty have stretched their understanding of what is possible with technology-mediated instruction. Studies at several universities demonstrate that familiarity with online learning fosters acceptance in faculty who were formerly resistant to it (Lloyd et al., 2012; Ubell, 2017), and we might expect that resistance has been broken down for many faculty. While some may shy away from future use of online technologies for instruction, others will continue to explore their potential. An emerging trend, rising from the quick transitions of 2020, shows many faculty exploring, and in some cases developing, pedagogical technologies outside of our campus learning management systems. We also see rapid development of platforms for sharing of online resources via listservs, managed pedagogical resource collections, and social media.
While we can expect some creative innovations will recede as we return to more familiar in-person instruction, many will be retained, improved, and sustained. It is less clear how our response to George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement, and urgent calls for pedagogical and institutional transformation will be sustained.
My institution is centered in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, where protests began the day after George Floyd’s murder. Throughout that June, I heard frequently from students whose academic work was disrupted by the ongoing protests in their neighborhoods, whether they were kept awake by circling helicopters and nearby gunfire or had spent the last few weeks in protests, in other activism, or in rebuilding their communities.
Many faculty on my campus are now hearing and understanding in new ways what our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) colleagues have been saying with increasing urgency: although our university’s mission and history are grounded in community engagement, social justice, and anti-racist pedagogy, we are only beginning the work to fully embody those ideals. As the protests waned, a preexisting campus group, the Anti-Racist Coalition, quickly organized a Day of Mourning, Learning, and Action, a socially distanced on-campus teach-in. More recently, a facilitated group of white-identified staff, faculty, and administrators formed to process our responses and to plan future action to dismantle racist systems of oppression.
Just as these localized dialogues promise to foster institutional change, we are seeing a renewed conversation on a national and international level about addressing the racism inherent in our disciplines. As a scientist and science educator, I am energized by the rising tide of conversations within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, as we are now challenged to imagine what an anti-racist STEM will look like. Multiple professional organizations, national, international, and regional, have published statements of renewed commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (e.g., Parikh, 2020, for the American Association for the Advancement of Science). In June 2020, thousands of students, faculty, and researchers participated in #ShutDownSTEM, a day of reflection and recognition of anti-Black racism in STEM fields, intended to catalyze change. Most importantly, BIPOC scientists are voicing concerns, suggestions, advice, and solidarity through petitions, interviews, articles, and commentaries on high-visibility websites and in publications (Ali, 2020; Gewin, 2020; Tseng et al., 2020). This widespread acknowledgment of racism in STEM is unprecedented. Whereas earlier attempts to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM emphasized early educational interventions and scholarship funding, we may now reveal and challenge deeper barriers to belonging within the culture of STEM that exclude participation by Black, Indigenous, and other students of color.
Faculty, educational developers, and students will all play a vital part in transforming academic and professional STEM disciplines. The way forward begins with centering the voices of BIPOC students and colleagues, with listening deeply to critiques of STEM culture, and with conscientious response. Our need for creativity, for diversity of thought, and for honoring traditional and Indigenous understandings of the natural world has never been more urgent.
Conclusion: Tomorrow Is Now
By Jennifer Marshall Shinaberger
We acknowledge we are in a very different place today. Fall 2019 seems like a different time when classes still met face-to-face, social distancing was a public health term few had heard of, and though conversations of race and social justice were paramount, they certainly were not in the forefront as they are today. Now, we must acknowledge and act on the inequities and challenges our students, faculty, and staff face.
The upheavals since March 2020 prove quality instruction is central to retain students and give them and faculty hope. We suspect the need to elevate instruction will be even more important in the future as schools compete for a smaller demographic. Meeting student needs with well-designed, evidence-based pedagogy is a top priority, including designing activities usable in any modality—face-to-face, hybrid, synchronous online, or asynchronous online. Most importantly, compassion and patience have proven to be essential teaching tools to accompany any technological innovation.
As faculty prepare for new courses and semesters, they are challenged to teach in new ways, whether considering how social justice is integrated into a discipline, designing courses for flexible formats, or learning new technology skills to deliver learning. Educational developers are needed as leaders and mentors now more than ever before to provide responsive programming to classroom demands in an uncertain future.
We heard some faculty refer to 2020 as the “lost year,” but as faculty, educational developers, and administrators, we disagree. If anything, educators and universities across the country found ways to connect and engage creatively, humanizing our technology and engaging in self-reflective conversations about race and systemic inequalities. What our new “normal” looks like is still in question, but institutional structures will certainly change. As we move forward and consider upcoming semesters and years, this watershed moment will be when we all participated in connecting with our peers and students outside the confines of brick and mortar. Our real gains surround the human touch of action and compassion.
Studies refer to educational developers as change agents, change leaders, change managers, and leveraging change (Dawson et al., 2010; Debowski, 2014; Grupp & Little, 2019; McGrath et al., 2016; Schroeder, 2011). With such responsibility comes the opportunity to rethink pedagogy at micro, meso, and macro levels and ensure that whatever the design of the classroom, it is responsive to the global challenges of the now. In his original piece, Bass (1999) noted that “it was only by ‘virtue’ of my crisis that led to a reconstruction that I found myself looking critically” at prior assumptions about teaching and learning (p. 4). To this, Hutchings (2000) added that asking the right questions is “a moral and ethical” task resulting in a “radical shift from usual practice” (p. 3). The crises of now have shown that our communities are in need of radical shifts.
In this now, we can effect change from our distinctive vantage points. This article leverages the power of narrative and personal stories to offer reflections on and lessons learned from our individual and collective experiences with crises, past and present. We hope the stories shared here prompt consideration of actions educators can take to help faculty at their colleges and universities become more resilient in times of crises. If we act now, it is not too late.
The authors thank the POD Writes organizers, Eric Fournier and Lind-say Bernhagen, for inviting us to participate in this project. In addition, we appreciate Gary Hawkins for his insightful conversation and guidance at the POD Network Conference in Pittsburgh.
Lisa Hatfield is the lead author. All remaining authors contributed equally to the manuscript; ranking does not indicate diminished engagement in its production.
Lisa J. Hatfield, EdD, MA, MAT, is the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR. She has worked with learners and instructors for more than 25 years and has taught at the secondary through graduate levels. Her research interests include the scholarship of teaching and learning and anything that touches on effective pedagogy in the classroom, virtual or otherwise.
Julie Maxson, PhD, is Associate Professor of Natural Sciences and former Director of the Center for Faculty Development at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN. Her work with students, faculty, and community focuses on engagement of non-traditional students in higher education, particularly in STEM courses and careers.
Jennifer Marshall Shinaberger is the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence to Advance Learning (CeTEAL) at Coastal Carolina University. She has spent much of her career in higher education as a faculty developer and has presented at international, national, and regional teaching and learning conferences such as the International Conference on Education and Development (ICED), POD Network, and Lilly Conferences on Teaching and Learning.
Hanna E. Norton, PhD, Professor of Journalism and Assistant Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, joined the faculty of Arkansas Tech University in 2001. She earned her master’s and PhD from the University of Georgia. Her professional background is in advertising and print journalism. Her research interests include the intersection of media and culture and how technology can positively impact student learning outcomes.
Cynthia (Cia) H. DeMartino, PhD, is at the University of Saint Katherine. She holds a doctorate in Communication from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Communication from Rutgers University. As a professional, researcher, and professor, her goal is to advance the use of social science research to understand and meet individual and community needs. As a faculty developer, she works to provide instructors the resources and training they need to help their students become empowered citizens and lifelong learners.
Annette Finley-Croswhite, PhD, is Director of the Center for Faculty Development as well as Professor of History and University Professor at Old Dominion University (ODU). She received her PhD in History from Emory University. In 2018, she founded the Center for Faculty Development at ODU to provide mentorship, professional development, and critical resources to the faculty in the areas of teaching and research. She publishes widely on religious and political violence and is a Fellow of the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświę cim, Poland.
Gigi Gokcek is the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education as well as Professor of Political Science at Dominican University of California. She holds a PhD and MA degrees in Political Science and International Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, respectively. Her research and publications are in the areas of international security and development, engaged learning, and professional development.
- Although this is not a comprehensive list, here are a few examples of U.S. campuses that faced crises in the new century: Tulane University (hurricane, 2005); Virginia Tech (mass shooting, 2007); UC Davis (campus police excessive force incident, 2011); UC Santa Barbara (mass shooting, 2014); University of North Carolina Wilmington (hurricane, 2018); Pepperdine University (wildfire, 2018); Syracuse University (antisemitism and racism incident, 2019). [^]
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