Zooming in on Faculty: Behavioral Adaptability Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic
The crisis-induced changes in instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic present a unique opportunity to study faculty adaptability, a significant contributor to future adoption of best-practice teaching techniques. A focus on the experiences of engineering instructors during emergency remote teaching reveals important resources and supports necessary for developing the faculty adaptability that can lead to adaptation. The purpose of this research is to understand the self-reported activities of engineering instructors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the normality of instructors’ engagement in these activities, and how these two factors changed over the course of three semesters. The research question addressed in this study is: In what ways do instructors’ activities change over the course of teaching during COVID? Throughout the three semesters affected by COVID-19, teaching-focused engineering instructors voluntarily completed weekly or biweekly online surveys about their engagement in teaching-related activities and the normality of that engagement. While weekly and semester participation varied by professor, data analysis used descriptive statistics to obtain general trends in activity engagement for each semester and across all three semesters. By the end of the third semester, 85% of participants indicated normality of their teaching methods, suggesting that faculty successfully adapted to pandemic circumstances by engaging primarily in casual conversations with colleagues and self-teaching. These trends indicate that developing a supportive faculty community as well as providing space, time, and resources for faculty self-teaching should encourage future faculty adaptability and adaptation.
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[00:00:01.320]Hello everyone. Thank you for
tuning into my presentation.
[00:00:04.500]I'm an engineering major from Swarthmore
college, and I've been working with Dr.
[00:00:08.190]Grace Panther this summer on a
project called Zooming in on Faculty,
Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.
[00:00:19.130]This project focuses on the experiences
of faculty during the past three
[00:00:23.030]semesters and the pandemic.
To frame our research,
[00:00:26.270]We've used two theoretical concepts.
[00:00:29.870]The first of these is the psychological
definition of adaptability,
[00:00:33.590]which includes cognitive,
emotional and behavioral aspects.
[00:00:37.340]For my part of this research, we're
focusing on behavioral adaptability,
[00:00:40.760]how faculty changed their normal
teaching activities to adapt to the new
[00:00:44.780]circumstances of COVID-19.
[00:00:48.020]The second concept is called emergency
remote teaching, the term for the
[00:00:51.830]immediate transition to online education
that we experienced in March, 2020, a
[00:00:56.810]process that would ideally take at least
a few months to prepare for. By studying
[00:01:01.700]the behavioral part of faculty
adaptability in the context of COVID-19,
[00:01:06.320]we can learn which resources and supports
are most necessary for encouraging
[00:01:10.160]future faculty adaptability.
[00:01:12.500]This is important so that we know how
best to support faculty during future
[00:01:16.160]crises and even during normal times,
[00:01:18.410]when research about best practice
teaching for engineering is constantly
[00:01:22.370]changing and only faculty who continue
to adapt to new research can best prepare
[00:01:26.750]their students for the future.
[00:01:30.110]This project is a valuable longitudinal
study of the way that instructors'
[00:01:34.430]activities change throughout the pandemic,
[00:01:37.040]as well as their reflections about the
normality of their activities over the
[00:01:40.670]course of teaching during the pandemic.
[00:01:45.470]To answer this question,
[00:01:46.760]23 online surveys were sent out over
the course of the three semesters asking
[00:01:51.380]participants, around 40 engineering
professors per semester,
[00:01:55.010]across seven different engineering
disciplines, to select any activities that
[00:01:58.910]they engaged in during that survey period
from a provided list of 10 options.
[00:02:04.670]participants were asked whether they
agreed that their activity engagement was
[00:02:08.240]normal relative to a pre-COVID
semester on a scale from one: strongly
[00:02:12.920]disagree to four: strongly agree.
Once we got the survey responses,
[00:02:17.720]we used Excel to code them with a one,
[00:02:20.210]if a professor selected an activity,
or a zero, if they did not.
[00:02:24.410]And this technique allowed us to create
counts and percentages of activity
[00:02:28.040]engagement, which we represented
in the following figures.
[00:02:35.300]First figure divides instructors'
activity engagement into two categories,
[00:02:39.700]self-directed and community-based.
[00:02:42.460]It is important to notice here that
despite some ups and downs, community-based
[00:02:46.660]engagement is consistently higher
than self-directed engagement.
[00:02:50.530]The overlaying line graph in this figure
represents the agreement question,
[00:02:54.760]how much professors felt that
their activities were normal.
[00:02:58.030]You can see that by the
end of the third semester,
[00:03:00.490]about 85% of participants felt
pretty normal compared to a very low
[00:03:04.780]25%, right at the beginning of the crisis.
[00:03:10.420]This next figure divides engagement into
each individual activity for the
[00:03:14.040]self-directed activities. This makes it
clear that the beginning of each semester
[00:03:18.570]was the most active time for professors
[00:03:20.940]and the most selected activity throughout
was professors teaching themselves new
[00:03:28.560]this figure is similar, but
for community-based activities.
[00:03:32.160]Some similar trends are in place here
[00:03:33.960]And the most popular activity each
semester was clearly instructors having
[00:03:38.070]casual conversations with their
colleagues about teaching.
[00:03:44.070]The first important key finding
is the upward trend in normality,
[00:03:47.640]which suggests that faculty were
gradually getting used to new teaching
[00:03:53.070]There was also an overarching trend of
higher community-based engagement than
[00:03:56.760]self-directed engagement, indicating that
professors relied on each other and
[00:04:01.020]their larger community
throughout the pandemic.
[00:04:04.710]Within the self-directed category,
[00:04:06.480]the most commonly selected activity
was self-teaching, suggesting that it is
[00:04:10.800]important to give faculty the resources,
[00:04:12.840]space and time to teach themselves
emerging teaching techniques.
[00:04:18.060]Finally, within the
[00:04:20.730]the most commonly selected
activity was casual conversations,
[00:04:24.450]which goes back to the idea that a
supportive community can be the most
[00:04:27.540]important resource for
faculty trying to adapt.
[00:04:32.930]In terms of faculty adaptability,
[00:04:34.850]the upward trend in agreement
of normality suggests
that many faculty members
[00:04:38.750]successfully adapted to their
new teaching circumstances
[00:04:41.660]by the end of three semesters.
[00:04:44.000]The findings from this research also
suggest possible implications for
adaptability in the future,
[00:04:50.330]including providing a supportive
community and self-teaching resources for
[00:04:56.060]For the larger study that this work is
part of, the next steps include analyzing
[00:05:00.140]the other two parts of adaptability,
[00:05:01.940]cognitive and emotional, by looking at
other survey answers and interviews that
[00:05:06.200]have already been conducted to develop
a full picture of the faculty experience
[00:05:10.100]during COVID-19. Thank
you all for listening,
[00:05:14.060]and I would like to thank Dr.
[00:05:15.320]Panther and the Engineering
Education research group,
[00:05:18.230]as well as the NSF for sponsoring this
project and my research experience this
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