Search within:
Disrupted Learner Participants
Teaching the Disrupted Learner

Teaching the Disrupted Learner

Teaching the Disrupted Learner

Over 50 faculty and staff attended the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment’s fall 2023 kickoff, “Teaching the Disrupted Learner.” Presentations and panels included in the half-day workshop reviewed the documented effects of over two years of remote instruction during the COVID pandemic, including student preparation for college, engagement skillsets and classroom expections.

Faculty, administrators and students shared successful instructional strategies and resources to support current, incoming and future Ohio University students.

Teaching the Disrupted Learner Presenters

CTLA Associate Director for Faculty Programming Jeremy Henkel and Academic Achievement Center Director Elizabeth Fallon provided context for the discussion.

Henkel noted that in 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics reported on student academic performance across subjects, showing a 26% of 8th graders proficient in math, and 31% proficient in reading. In Ohio, students performed 2 points better, but the indicators for 2023, following an extended period of remote learning, show students learning at a slower pace than pre-pandemic.

In addition, he said, “Students haven’t learned how to student,” and many arrive without the study and time management strategies faculty may have expected in the past. They may also lack self-sufficiency, having externalized responsibility and expecting a concierge model of education.

They arrive having experienced a “blurred line between education and media consumption,” he explained, which challenges classroom engagement and ability to effectively utilize resources for deep learning. Finally, Henkel pointed out that more than 80% of students reported emotional or mental health challenges that affected academic performance. Of these, 35% said they would talk to a faculty member about their challenges. 80% of fculty reported dealing with student mental health challenges.

Fallon also acknowledged these challenges, noting that nearly 3,000 students attended took advantage of at least one AAC service this past spring semester. 14% of undergraduate students and 25% of first-year students accessed the AAC in the spring. The three main catetories of services include peer tutoring, supplemental instruction and academic coaching.

AAC is responding to the disruption by hosting over 100 Rufus Ready sessions during the first week of the fall semester, which highlight support resources, include mini-success sessions for low-success rate courses, provide technology overviews and review resources for remediation of certain skillsets.

A panel including three 2022-23 teaching award winning faculty and key administrators offered advice and lessons learned for supporting students.

Supporting Current and Future Students

Disrupted Learner Faculty Panel

Sarah Poggione, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

"While the effects of the pandemic on learning are likely to with us for a number of years, the actions we take now can help all disrupted learners including students experiencing significant life events or personal challenges, adult learners, students with varying access to of educational and other resources, students with less familiarity with higher education, as well as those whose primary and secondary school experiences were alerted by the pandemic.  This is an opportunity to be more intentional about what our entire academic community have always done well, which is to help our students succeed.  We can reconsider how we approach our courses, but we can also think about changes in our academic programs, policies, and practices to help our students make progress and achieve their goals."


Kathy Fahl, Dean of Students

  • Students see faculty as a resource for mental health and well-being issues. Think about including information about Counseling and Psychological Services in your course materials. 
  • Consider thoughtful deadlines that prioritize things like sleep. When assignments are due at 11:59 p.m., students will sacrifice sleep. Instead, make course assignments due earlier in the evening.
  • If you see behaviors of concern such as stopped attending class, changes in behavior, struggling with feelings of helplessness, or including alarming content in assignments, submit a CARE referral through the Office of the Dean of Students.


Edmond Chang, Associate Professor of English

  • Model what it means to be a student and part of a classroom community; model how to navigate your course (and materials); and articulate the rationales that go into the class, the assignments, and the overall course outcomes. Effort and enthusiam go a long way and might even be contagious.  
  • Be kind and compassionate not only to the students but to yourself; compassion isn't always putting on a happy face; clear boundaries and even a healthy dose of negative affect is also good teaching and mentoring.


Ryan Fogt, Professor of Geography and Meteorology

  • Find creative ways to engage students in the class
  • Help students to apply content learned frequently in and out of class
  • Be accessible and approachable to students


Danielle Feeney, Assistant Professor of Education

  • Utilize the Universal Design for Learning framework in all courses. Analyze and address the ways in which your instruction creates barriers to learning.
  • Focus on knowing and growing your students holistically, not just academically. Ensure this is reciprocal; learn and grow from their expertise as well.
  • Stop assessing compliance. Make sure you are assessing student learning and progress. 

From OU Students

The fall kickoff also included a student panel. These were their top teaching recommendations.

  • Make Content Visible

    Upload slides, or some other form of teaching notes, to Blackboard. It enables students to review the lesson after class and fill in gaps in their understanding.

  • Ensure Engagement

    Structure class time so that students have the opportunity to discuss topics with one another. This helps them remain engaged during class and deepen their understanding of the material covered. Encourage everyone to talk during class or to contribute to online discussion boards. They appreciate learning about their classmates’ perspectives. 

  • Involve Everyone

    Encourage everyone to talk during class or to contribute to online discussion boards. They appreciate learning about their classmates’ perspectives. 

  • Ditch Technology (at Times)

    Include some assignments that can be completed without electronic devices. Screen fatigue is real.