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Teaching in 2020 means either socially distanced classrooms or classes moved totally online — or sometimes both.

Pandemic brings changes to teaching

Teachers, students and parents have had to make adjustments in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with teachers sometimes providing lessons both remotely and in person and parents juggling their children’s schoolwork as well as their own careers.

But what of the teachers who are teaching future educators? What are Texas Woman’s University teacher education professors hearing from their students, and how have the professors themselves adapted to the changes brought by the pandemic?

Laura Trujillo-Jenks, PhD, interim chair of TWU’s Department of Teacher Education, said courses in the educational leadership program have been fully online for a couple of years, so going to a virtual format was not difficult.

“We also had to reapply for our principalship program through the Texas Education Agency, since the Texas Principal Standards were updated and changed, along with the TExES Principal exams,” she said. “Because of the rigorous process we had to go through, we were very prepared for something like COVID-19 occurring.”

However, she noted, “we have just begun our superintendent certification program again, using fully online and seven-week courses, and our students were performing well, but not as well as we expected. My perception is that when COVID-19 hit, our superintendent students — who are administrators at the school level — had so much to deal with that their studies took a back seat.”

Trujillo-Jenks said students in both the principalship and superintendent programs are telling professors that not having an “end date” to the current situation is causing a lot of uncertainty.

“Many parents are nervous about sending their kids to school, so many of our students have reported seeing a rise in homeschooling,” she said. “Some of our students also have said that a handful of their own teachers have quit their jobs with the ISDs and have created their own ‘schools’ where they teach/tutor students. Education sites are popping up that will cater to children in special education, talented and gifted or ESL/Bilingual.”

Amanda Hurlbut, PhD, assistant professor and M.A.T. program coordinator, began a project during the fall 2019 semester that became a helpful tool for her pre-service teachers after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

In redesigning the technology integration course last fall, Hurlbut implemented a “flipped classroom” model in which students are first exposed to new material outside of class (usually through reading or videos), then use class time for problem-solving, discussion or debates.

“I very quickly realized that I had this amazing library of teaching videos that my pre-service teachers created,” she said. “When COVD-19 hit, I knew I had a goldmine of videos that could be shared to a broader audience.” After seeing social media posts from parents who were dealing with children now learning at home, Hurlbut posted news of her students’ video library.

“Within a day or two, I had nearly 50 shares and more than 400 individual views,” she said.

Her students have benefited from the project as well.

“Many of the students who had to do this project now find themselves ‘experts’ in their student teaching placements because they have already had the experience of creating virtual/recorded teaching content during their time in the program,” Hurlbut said. “And my current course of students is now being prepared to use the tools at hand to teach in both virtual and face-to-face environments.”

Jorge Figueroa, PhD, associate professor of bilingual and ESL education, says the main difference between teaching face-to-face vs. online is the contact the professors have with the students.

“The contact (in online teaching) is more limited,” he said. “It becomes more impersonal.”

To combat that, Figueroa tells his students learning online to “engage, keep active in the discussions. I tell them as well to keep in communication with me. That is the most important part.”

He added that discussion boards are an essential part of his online teaching.

“My students have been able to combine short Flipgrid videos along with longer screen-share video presentations,” he said. “All of these are shared in the classroom. In addition, they’ve been able to demonstrate competence in the use of immersive technologies.”

For teachers who have had to move from an in-person classroom to teaching online, Figueroa’s advice is to “go back to the basics of instructional design and transform it to instructional design for online learning (IDOL), always assessing the resources available and making adjustments based on students’ access with technology; see how they can apply technology to back up the pedagogy; and keep in touch with the parents.”

His advice for professors?

“I think professors need to learn to unplug,” he said, though he admitted it’s difficult for him to do so.

Figueroa said students are emailing him more often now and are expecting quick replies.

“It’s like 24/7,” he said, adding that he feels the need to respond.

“If a student sends you an email on a Sunday at 10:30 p.m., what do you do? You don’t know the situation the student is in,” he said. “It could be the only time the student has access to the internet.”

Taking care of themselves while also taking care of their students can lead to a lot of stress these days, but Figueroa said professors need to keep going.

“We need to prevent burnout and fatigue.”


By Karen Garcia
Marketing & Communication