Feeling Burnt Out?

About the author: Inara Scott, Ph.D. is Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning Excellence in the OSU College of Business. She also serves as the 2020-21 Provost’s Fellow.

As we draw close to the one year mark from when we left campus, I’m hearing more and more from faculty and students who are feeling–to put it mildly–burnt out. I’m not a mental health expert, but it doesn’t take a PhD or training in psychology to know that people are tired. Tired of the pandemic. Tired of remote teaching and learning. Tired of being isolated, scared, and anxious. Tired of not feeling in control of their classrooms and their lives. This may all be natural and par for the course, but it is still a reality we have to cope with.

I would encourage anyone feeling overwhelmed to take advantage of OSU’s mental health resources for employees and students. But for those of us who may want some help finding a way to get our feet back underneath us in the classroom, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ask yourself: is this assignment necessary? In the interest of engagement and authentic assessment, many faculty added additional assignments to their classes in the form of weekly quizzes, reading responses, discussion, and papers. From an engagement standpoint, this is awesome–unless it’s contributing to burn out that directly undermines the goal of the assignment! Now that we are a year into the pandemic, ask yourself–is the time that students and I are putting into this assignment really worth it? What are the learning objectives this assignment seeks to achieve? Is there a way I can combine two assignments to get that same outcome?

Use the Workload Estimator 2.0  to make informed estimates of the time it will take students to complete various assignments. Then consider the OSU definition of a credit, “One credit is generally given for three hours per week of work in and out of class,” as a guideline to determine whether your course workload is commensurate with the number of credits.

  1. Reduce your grading burden. Students want and need real time feedback to be successful. If you’ve added a lot of graded assignments, you may find yourself falling behind in your grading–or being so exhausted you no longer can give it the attention it deserves. In these situations, consider how you could increase the efficiency of your grading while still giving students real time feedback. Could you use a rubric instead of writing free hand comments?
    Attaching a Canvas rubric to an assignment can increase the efficiency and consistency of the grading process of Canvas assignments, quizzes, and discussions. It also spells out your expectations for student work.

Can you reduce the grading scale to reduce complexity of grading (from say, an assignment worth 20 points to an assignment worth 5 points)? Changing from a 10 point to a 5 point scale for in-class assignments (5=exceeds; 4=meets; 3-1=does not meet) greatly reduced the time I spent on my grading!

3. Use Canvas quiz statistics to calibrate your (and your students’) expectations. How long does it actually take students to complete your quizzes? Are you giving them too little time? Too much? Which questions are they getting wrong? Can you figure out why they might be confused and adjust your lectures to address the issue? If you’re giving a quiz that most students run out of time to complete, you may not be getting an accurate snapshot of your students’ mastery of the information–while increasing their anxiety. On the other hand, if most students complete the quiz in half the time available, consider adjusting the quiz time down to ensure that they prepare adequately (and reduce cheating). In this case, make sure to let students know ahead of time that the next quiz will feel more time pressured, and give them strategies for mastering the material!

  1. Share what you’ll do differently this spring.We are all still learning how to teach remotely, and we can all learn from each other. Think about what you’ll do differently this spring. Please share your tips, ideas, and plans with your College Peer Supporters or the CTL staff so they can inform our teaching community!

Thank you for all your hard work.


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