Post-Pandemic Teaching and Learning: Revisiting Common Practices

Workshop Session 2
Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred dramatic shifts in post-secondary teaching and learning that have fundamentally challenged long-held views and practices. This presentation highlights common instructional and assessment strategies that can be revisited and adapted to more effectively  address the cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial needs of  college students.


B. Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning in the online classroom through innovative instructional and assessment strategies. In addition, she has interests in the development of effective faculty evaluation models, perception of online degrees, and faculty workload considerations. Jean received her B.S. in comprehensive psychology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, an M.S. in experimental psychology from Western Illinois University and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Extended Abstract

As we transition from the active response phase of the COVID-19 pandemic to the post-pandemic era, one thing is clear: the disruption and chaos that resulted in pandemic-induced adaptations have fundamentally changed higher education.  As such, conversations have shifted from an emphasis on 'return-to-normal' to embrace the need for a 'new-normal' that addresses the cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial needs of college students. Despite the challenges inherent in the pandemic-induced shift to remote teaching and learning, the forced venture to virtual education resulted in a range of instructional innovations and insights. The reality is that teaching through the pandemic forced faculty to reconceptualize the fundamental meaning of teaching and learning, utilize technology in new ways, and redesign learning experiences. Now that the pandemic is shifting out of the crisis phase and into a 'new-normal', it is essential to reconsider instructional strategies and approaches to address the needs of the post-pandemic student. As highlighted by Nathan Grawe (2020; How Will the Pandemic Change Higher Education), "We’re adopting new teaching technologies, engaging with advisees in new ways, and streamlining decision-making to match the speed of the crisis. Some of these changes have the potential to improve student outcomes. When the pandemic abates and campuses return to normal, we should permanently employ the best of those changes.”

College students today are fundamentally different than those just a few years ago; students are returning to our classrooms with unique challenges:

  • increased mental health concerns

  • increased economic burdens

  • increased support needs

  • increased desire for value-added knowledge and skills that directly impact career opportunities

Complicating the issue, these challenges are intensified by:

  • decreased attention span

  • decreased social networks

  • decreased engagement in learning activities

With falling enrollments and increased pressure to attract and retain students, faculty are faced with the challenge of offering students a value-added learning experience that meaningfully engages students in their courses and in the broader campus community. Beyond just meeting cognitive learning objectives, faculty must adapt to meet students' rapidly evolving expectations for flexible, relevant, hands-on learning while simultaneously creating learning experiences that meet students' core psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Addressing this complex challenge requires more than simply integrating active learning strategies or modifying traditional assessments, it mandates embracing a new philosophy of teaching and learning. Post-pandemic students are uninterested in memorizing information simply for the sake of a grade. They desire engaging learning environments that embrace students' active involvement in the teaching and learning dynamic. Central to this desire is a shift in the role of both faculty and students. Rather than looking at faculty as simply content providers, students are seeking disciplinary experts who are adaptable, student-centered, and value relationship-building over content delivery. Teaching in the post-pandemic world mandates a shift in philosophy from an emphasis on content delivery to the creation of learning experiences. Within this context, we have recognized that learning is inherently a social experience. To create high-quality learning, faculty must empower students by designing learning experiences that foster disciplinary knowledge in a manner that embraces students as active collaborators and empathizes with them as individuals.  The new philosophy of teaching and learning emphasizes the need to create holistic learning experiences that actively and intentionally consider students' needs and preferences. Inherent in a student-centered approach to teaching and learning is the importance of empathy in education. Effective learning environments must embrace a holistic approach to learning that considers the unique needs, strengths, and motivations of each student.  Empathic teaching shifts from a didactic approach to instruction to embrace students as active collaborators in an ever-evolving learning environment. As explained by John C. Maxwell, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Change and innovation emerge when we explore the edges of our comfort zone. While there are likely many different radical ways that a faculty member could completely revamp and overhaul teaching and learning to try to address students' needs in the post-pandemic classroom, perhaps a more doable strategy is to begin by revisiting common instructional practices.

This presentation will  highlight  common instructional issues that can be reconsidered and adapted to more effectively meet students' needs in the post-pandemic era. While the instructional practices presented will be far from comprehensive, they provide a manageable starting point for faculty to shift teaching and learning to better meet students' needs. Presenters will engage participants in the active revision of a course syllabus that reflects an adaptation of learning activities, due dates, and assessments to better meet the needs of post-pandemic students at their institution.