Alden award winners will speak on teaching since COVID in annual lecture

January 24, 2023
By: Allison Coppinger

Since March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused challenges for students, but for educators as well. Educators from all over the world needed to change their teaching styles and implement new policies to accommodate their students. 

Worcester State Associate Professors and 2022 George I. Alden Excellence in Teaching Award Winners Erika Briesacher of History and Political Science and Hardeep Sidhu of English will be speaking Friday, Jan. 27 about teaching since the start of COVID-19 in Sheehan Room 109 from 1:30 – 3 p.m. during the annual George I. Alden Excellence in Teaching Lecture. All faculty and students are welcome to attend.

Briesacher plans to discuss how COVID-19 was a reason for her to sit down and rethink her ways of teaching, and how teaching has not been the same ever since. Seeing what assignments and readings were worth assigning to students is something that she had to consider more, along with what was important to keep and not.

”Everything was new and different and I had to teach a year from home remotely,” Briesacher said. In one of the courses Briesacher teaches called Museums and Society, it was more difficult to teach the course without students having the ability to visit local museums in person.

Sidhu will be discussing how his grading system has changed and how he has eliminated old policies in his courses. In Sidhu’s courses, there is no longer an attendance policy, late policy, or grading system stated in the syllabi. The policies were not useful anymore since a lot of exceptions for late work were made for students due to illness, or the need to care for family members, Sidhu said. 

“I needed to figure out plans with many students on how they could make up the work,” said Sidhu. Instead of Sidhu grading assignments and assigning the final grade to students in his courses, the students reflect back to him towards the end of the semester about what they learned in the course and what they believe their grade should be. This process has caused a lot of students to feel less anxious about their grades, said Sidhu.

Briesacher and Sidhu say they feel honored to have received the George I. Alden Excellence in Teaching Award, and to be recognized by students, alumni representatives, and faculty following the pandemic. This award is “the pinnacle of my career” said Briesacher. 

Sidhu said, “This is a high point of my career as a teacher. Teaching is the part of my job that I work on the hardest.”

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