Professors Are Exhausted and Concerned About Student Outcomes, Survey Shows

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Three female college students wearing face masks using technology working in computer lab.

A new survey released on Tuesday shows that professors are exhausted from spending more time teaching and are worried about student equity and success during the pandemic.

Since March 2020, Every Learner Everywhere, a network focused on equitable digital learning in higher education, has monitored the college experience through focus groups that include a total of more than 8,300 faculty members from nearly 2,000 institutions.

Its report, titled “Time for Class Part 3: The Impact of 2020 on Introductory Faculty and Their Students,” is the third and final survey in a series that focuses on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on pedagogy and student learning in higher education. 

“The pandemic has brought to light issues that call for long-term strategic responses from institutions, suppliers, and policy-makers so that we can ensure that every student everywhere is able to learn,” the report states.

In the latest survey, data was pulled from 852 faculty members who teach introductory courses across more than 600 institutions.

The survey says it highlights introductory professors because their courses, which can have high enrollment numbers such as English and STEM, “serve as gateways to degree paths, but often function as gatekeepers.”

“[H]igh failure rates in these gateway courses lead to significant dropout rates between the first and second year, and at disproportionately high numbers for poverty-affected and racially minoritized students,” the report adds.

Professors overall shared a negative sentiment about the Fall 2020 term with 160 using the word “exhausting” to describe the semester. The top challenges professors polled is keeping students engaged, providing additional student support, and administering secure tests. 

Just 54 percent of professors say addressing these teaching issues through professional development provided by their institutions has been sufficient. 

Significantly effective pedagogy models designed for maneuvering virtual and in-person learning, like hybrid and flexible teaching formats, have also raised unique concerns. Instructors who participated in hybrid models were less likely to report feeling prepared and more likely to be dissatisfied with student learning outcomes, according to the survey.

Faculty members also reported an increased rate of students withdrawing, not completing courses, and receiving D and F letter grades.