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Teaching and Learning in a “New Normal”

You’ve probably heard the phrase “new normal” used in various settings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, not always in a positive light. At NC State, however, faculty see the phrase as an opportunity to create something better, as showcased last month at the Office for Faculty Excellence’s (OFE) 2022 Teaching and Learning Symposium.

During this one-day event, more than 100 attendees participated in interactive sessions led by award-winning NC State faculty, viewed a keynote lecture and met NC State peers who shared their interest in teaching and learning. This year’s theme, “Creating Our New Normal,” focused on changes in teaching and learning in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ways in which faculty have responded, and have worked to create a new reality that is more beneficial to faculty and students alike.

“NC State’s instructors have worked even harder than usual over the past two years, adjusting to frequent changes in instruction modalities as we responded to the pandemic,” said Katharine Stewart, senior vice provost for faculty and academic affairs. “They have done amazing and innovative work not only in terms of pedagogy but also in student engagement at a time when everyone, instructors and students alike, were managing multiple stressors and challenges. The Teaching and Learning Symposium was a great opportunity for these talented instructors to come together in community to celebrate the wisdom and accomplishments within our Pack faculty and also to support one another and acknowledge the impact of the pandemic.”

Dr. Susan D. Blum, professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, gave the keynote lecture on the topic of “ungrading,” or getting rid of grades in order to improve educational quality and the student experience. Her edited volume Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead) was a fall 2021 and spring 2022 OFE Reading Circle selection.

Blum is also the author of “I Love Learning; I Hate School”: An Anthropology of College (Cornell, 2016) and My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture (Cornell, 2009), and the editor of the recent volume Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead) (West Virginia University Press, 2020). With five co-authors, she has written “A Theory of Public Higher Education,” published in Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal in July 2021.

Symposium attendees could choose one of three available breakout sessions to attend. They were:

  • How We Evaluate: A Novel Online Critical Thinking Course
  • The Courage to Unclench: Thriving in the Classroom
  • Ungrading is More Work and More Rewarding

Thirty-one teams of faculty, staff and students presented at the Teaching and Learning Symposium’s poster session. Judges chose from these poster presentations an Outstanding Poster Award winner:

  • “Immersive Clinical Lactation Videos Improve Student Self-Efficacy” by Nicola Singletary (Assistant Teaching Professor, Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences); April Fogleman (Associate Professor Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences); Ellen Chetwynd (Contract Research Scientist); Dan Spencer (Research Scholar, DELTA); Rebecca Sanchez (Lead Instructional Designer, DELTA)

The inspiration behind the study showcased in the winning poster began through the researchers receiving a DELTA grant for creating immersive video content for a clinical lactation course. The study seeks to support students in their career paths to lactation and other healthcare fields, preparing them to interact with patients and their families in an authentic way and bridges the gap between didactic training and clinical practice.

“It was great to find that students found the content engaging and effective,” said Singletary. “We will continue to include immersive video in the credit and non-credit courses. We have a manuscript ready to go out and hope that this technology will be used by other clinical training programs (both in lactation and other clinical fields). We would also like to expand the video content available to other settings.”

This was just one example of how faculty at NC State create a “new normal” by harnessing the advantages of technology to promote excellence in teaching and learning. All from the symposium are available for viewing on the OFE website.

“The 2022 Teaching and Learning Symposium was a great showcase of the innovative Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) work that is being done by NC State faculty,” said Maria Gallardo-Williams, senior faculty development specialist in the Office for Faculty Excellence. “We had submissions from the OFE SoTL Institute participants, as well as from other members of the campus community. It was wonderful to see the quality of the work that was presented, and to appreciate how many instructors have taken the lessons learned during these difficult times and turned them into scholarly work.” 

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