Although many of us will reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic as disruptive to our way of life, COVID-19 has radically transformed the process of medical education and has served as a catalyst for incorporation of new technologies, remote learning platforms, and novel methods of instruction. These changes have placed faculty development at the forefront of the medical education response to COVID-19. Faculty developers provided continual and responsible support during this “emergency online education pivot” as institutions minimized the catastrophic spread of disease and by changing the traditional medical education approach. Faculty developers, as experts in online learning pedagogy, educational technology tools, and online student services, designed, produced, and delivered training quickly and effectively to meet the immediate needs of faculty and to save institutions.
Perhaps less studied, but equally important, are the affective behaviors of faculty developers during this time of immense “overnight” change in medical education due to COVID-19. Focusing strictly on educator skills development ignores the humanistic side of education - compassion, empathy, and active listening. These three affective behaviors have surfaced as crucial elements of professional development. Affective or emotional labor has long been studied within various service professions and is defined by Hochschild (2012) as the work that is done to induce or suppress feelings in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others. Developing productive working relationships takes time to understand different approaches, perspectives, and microcultural views. However, COVID-19 yielded novel work stressors including Zoom fatigue, allostatic load, and caution fatigue, and non-work related stressors including a collapsing economy, child care, work-from-home difficulties, and lack of leisure travel, all of which are impacting the personal lives of us and our people - our friends, colleagues, and loved ones.
Consequently, the affective role of emotionality in the faculty development environment is a key factor for promoting successful educator change. A combined mode of affective emotional support coupled with knowledge and skills development provides faculty with enhanced confidence in experiential learning opportunities, thus leading to voluntary adoption of the new approaches by faculty and gradual change in their beliefs and attitudes after witnessing the feasibility and effectiveness of the new skills. Therefore, in examining the work of faculty developers with faculty, it is important more than ever to manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of other faculty.
In conclusion, exploring not only what we experienced during all manifestations of the pandemic, but also how we were feeling from the experience is equally salient.
How have your skills and affective experiences with COVID-19 been supported by faculty development? Comment on the Harvard Macy Community Blog or share your experiences on Twitter using #MedEdPearls!
#MedEdPearls are developed monthly by the Central Group on Educational Affairs. Previously, #MedEdPearls explored topics including the Using Rapid Prototyping in Health Professions Education, Ideas for Engaging Students Virtually, and Skating to Where the HPE Puck is Going To Be.
Mark Terrell, Ed.D. is the Assistant Dean for Medical Education, Institutional Director of Faculty Development, and Director for the Master of Science in Medical Education and PhD in Anatomy Education Programs at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania. Mark’s areas of professional interest include the scholarship of teaching and learning, educational research, anatomy education, and curriculum development. Mark can be reached via