Understanding the pandemic classroom

In the latest episode of Penn Today’s ‘Understand This ...’ podcast series, Caroline Watts of the Graduate School of Education and Philip Gressman of the School of Arts & Sciences discuss the return to the classroom.

Masked students at desks

Welcome to the fall semester’s first episode of the “Understand This ...” series, a Penn Today podcast. This podcast series is designed as a journey to understand how to solve problems of the day—and of our time—by uniting minds from different disciplines. This episode is both a reflection on what students and educators have experienced in learning during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus an examination of how lessons from the pandemic can be applied to a return to in-person classroom settings.

Joining for the conversation is Caroline Watts, senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Education and director of School and Community Engagement at GSE, as well as Philip Gressman, a professor of mathematics in the School of Arts & Sciences. Watts is team leader for GSE’s Project for Progress, addressing West Philadelphia students’ school readiness and teachers’ instructional capacity and mental health needs. Gressman, meanwhile, reshaped the teaching of calculus during the pandemic to fit the needs of students, with a focus on inclusive and equitable teaching. Together, they talk about their experiences as educators during the early days of the pandemic, lessons learned, and how the classroom might look and feel different in the coming months.

6:56: Gressman discusses recognizing the scope of the problem at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying the need for education to adapt, and time spent on adapting a calculus curriculum for remote learning.

13:30: Watts talks about what worked well in the transition to remote learning and what didn’t—plus, new forms of feedback for instructors.

16:18: Watts discusses the ongoing Project for Progress in West and Southwest Philadelphia summer schools, what we gained from the experiences of the past 18 months, and the “joy” of students and teachers being reunited.

21:20: “Quote Break” 27:40: Gressman highlights the need to be accommodating in this extraordinary moment in teaching, as well as what to consider taking out of the classroom when balancing synchronous and asynchronous learning.

31:58: Watts: “A model I’ve learned for life is to be prepared to adapt and be flexible.”

Follow the “Understand This ...” podcast on Apple Music.