Moving forward: College of Education striving for innovation, flexibility during pandemic 

  Friday, July 31, 2020 10:00 AM
  Academics, News

Pittsburg, KS


Editor’s Note:   

This is part of a series of stories that is exploring the ways in which Pittsburg State University, the community's largest employer and education provider, has been preparing all summer for the fall semester in an effort to be as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stories focus on specific aspects of campus life, including academics in each of the university’s four colleges, recreation, student health, and more. 

Q. How is Pittsburg State University's College of Education preparing to serve students in three departments and three programs when school begins again in the fall?   

A. By remaining flexible with students and coursework delivery and by seeking innovative ways to approach requirements.

The guiding principle: to continue to prepare professionals for careers in the fields of Teaching and Leadership, Psychology and Counseling, and Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, while mitigating risk. 

James Truelove, dean of the College of Education, has been meeting with his department chairs and director of teacher education on a weekly basis this summer to discuss strategies and processes. It's been complicated: the college serves 1,500 majors.

“We have many courses that are unique. Our college also has a high presence out in the community,” he said. “We want students connected and to be able to complete the hands-on, practical side of our program, but safety is also critical as they’re doing that.” 

So, faculty and staff are thinking outside the box and remaining flexible. 

“We made a commitment last spring that we weren’t going to let the situation negatively impact our students,” Truelove said. “We are striving to innovate, to do things we haven’t done before, and that includes opening up the use of new technologies." 

Teaching & Leadership and Teacher Education 

Within the College of Education, the Office of Teacher Education program under the direction of Jean Dockers is deploying a variety of methods for those working in public and private schools as student teachers or interns. 

“I don’t think education will ever be the same. I think this will change face of education forever — and that’s huge,” Truelove said. “Our candidates will be prepared to teach in that kind of world because they are living through it right now.” 

If schools in which they’re student teaching are using virtual learning or hybrid remote/face-to-face models, then student teachers and interns may also choose that model, according to Jean Dockers, director of Teacher Education. 

To avoid cross contamination, student teachers won’t come to campus. 

“We normally would have them here first day of each month, but we're not doing that,” Dockers said. “We are trying to minimize the amount of exposure to students back here on campus and to each other if they’ve been in different school districts in different counties.” 

Truelove said students will still be able to meet all requirements, or may choose to postpone student teaching if they want to. 

In the Office of Teaching & Leadership, under the direction of Brenda Roberts, graduate programs in education are utilizing the online course delivery model that has already been successful with the population served, and are turning to other innovative strategies.  

Leadership students will also gain valuable insights about how school district administrators lead through challenging times and will be well prepared to assume those roles in the future, Truelove noted. 

Psychology & Counseling 

Similarly, the Department of Psychology & Counseling requires field experience and real-world components and will provide flexible methods for students to acquire that.

“We will continue to coordinate our efforts with professionals in the field as they support the training of our students,” Truelove said. 

Faculty have options pertaining to course delivery. 

David P. Hurford, who serves as chair of the Psychology & Counseling Department and teaches developmental psychology classes, will teach through Zoom only, while some colleagues have chosen the HyFlex option and still others will teach in person using reduced capacity in classrooms.  

Hurford's decision was based largely on an outpouring of messages from students concerned with being in a classroom physically, so he offered that option. 

At PSU’s Center for READing (Research, Evaluation, and Awareness of Dyslexia), which has gained statewide and even national attention in recent years for services offered to area children and families, staff have conducted evaluations and interventions this summer through Zoom. It worked well, Hurford said. 

That option will continue this fall, as well as in-person visits by those willing to wear a mask, which is required on campus. 

Health, Human Performance, and Recreation 

The Health, Human Performance, and Recreation Department offers undergraduate degree programs in Exercise Science, Recreation Services, Sport and Hospitality Management, and Physical Education; five minors and certificates in Dance, Coaching, and Hospitality Management; and a graduate program in HHPR.  

The department also offers a range of life-sport and fitness courses, and those will be offered with several modifications, said Chair John Oppliger. 

Group exercise classes will use the Hyflex approach to decrease classroom capacity to 30 percent. If the room routinely will hold 40 students, then only 12 students would be allowed to participate face-to-face. Alternating small groups will attend class while the remaining students participate virtually through ZOOM.   

Some classes will be moved to larger gym spaces to accommodate for 6 feet of distancing. Instructors also will take students outdoors to allow for more breathable areas while maintaining social distancing.   

Classes will focus more on individual fitness programming, performing many exercises in one’s own personal space, versus partner style workouts, and students will have their own equipment, such as dumbbells, mats, and bands. 

For Laura Covert-Miller's Therapeutic Recreation program, which often involves students interacting with special needs individuals and senior citizens, they’ll instead become pen pals and conduct virtual visits. 

Cutline: Pittsburg State University's College of Education, which is headquartered in Hughes Hall, is making a number of adjustments to safely serve its students in three departments and three programs when school begins again in the fall.