Innovative Teaching During COVID-19 Series: Kate Bloomquist

The Center for Teaching and Learning is highlighting innovative work done by faculty at Washington University in St. Louis during the Spring 2020 semester at the height of the coronavirus pandemic as part of a new web series. Our latest Q&A features Kate Bloomquist, PhD, Lecturer in College Writing at Washington University in St. Louis.

How did you change your teaching to respond to the pandemic?

While I did have experience in online instruction, this was the first semester when I converted all of my courses to online experiences. That meant that I featured far more asynchronous discussion boards and synchronous workshops of student papers via Zoom. From my view, that meant that I was constantly learning and rethinking my approach to College Writing. I developed lecture videos via Kaltura, made my daily Canvas modules far more specific, and was really excited to discuss my students’ research projects with them via Zoom.

What was the result of the changes, if any?

I had a really strong set of final research papers! I was pleased to see that students were just as responsive to comments in the online format as they were during class, though they did think that we should have fewer discussion boards overall! This semester allowed me to see more of my students’ responses in each discussion board, since I might not have seen/heard all those comments during class discussion. I was pleased to get responses from my student evals about how helpful the research project materials were.

How did students respond to your teaching?

They definitely enjoyed working on their research projects and interacting with one another in the Zoom workshops/discussion boards. I have learned that adding in more specific case studies of research projects early on in the unit works really well. I’ve also asked some SP 20 students to create videos for my future students about their experiences with their projects. That should be a nice way for generations of WUSTL students to share their learning with each other.

What are you the most proud of?

I’m most proud of learning from my colleagues and from my students about what works in online instruction. We are all learners and should share ideas about curriculum with one another.

What advice would you have for colleagues who need to adjust their teaching due to the pandemic/other unforeseen circumstances?

I would advise them to work closely/collaboratively with others and to learn from one another’s best practices. The College Writing Program featured presentations from faculty members about online learning & I think that worked well to set up the online versions of our courses. I think that we should expand these conversations to exchange ideas across academic divisions, tenure-track and teaching faculty and alongside the Center for Teaching & Learning, so that we can make visible all the excellent teaching that goes on across our campus. More robust opportunities for sharing best practices with each other would make us all stronger!