My plan is to teach in person in the Fall.[1] Three classes: a small class for training TAs; a 10-person class (cap is 15, but for reasons that will become apparent I will not be recruiting to the cap) on teaching and learning; a 30-person upper level ethics class. All will be taught under strict social distancing rules (6 feet) and with everyone required to wear masks. [Needless to say, by September perhaps everything will be online anyway, and, regardless, we’ll have to be prepared to go online at the flick of a switch].

So. How will that work? For now, I’ve requested an additional timeslot for the 30-person class, so that I can do the following: one 75-minute meeting a week with all 30 of them which is more lecture/Q&A than I generally like, and then split the students into 2 groups of 15, each of which meets for a more discussion-intensive meeting. Still — even with 15 students it will be a huge challenge to run a discussion under social distancing rules with masks.

The best resource I’ve come across so far in helping think about the problem is this excellent post by Derek Bruff. He’s considering blended classes (in which some students are videoconferencing into the classroom, and others are in person in the classroom), but the suggestions also seem feasible with all-in-person classes. I have not been an enthusiast for the fishbowl in person, just because I tend to be in crowded rooms with poor acoustics and the moving around of chairs and tables makes it awkward. Well — that won’t be a problem this semester! and I can see fishbowls working well. I’m also considering a variant on his suggestion about pair work — Split the class in two, move them to opposite walls, and make them do the pair work by phone with the person they are standing opposite.

I’m going to be on a team to work up suggestions for our campus this fall. (My college’s team on online teaching already reported, and the results, which I think are both excellent and very well presented, are here). The challenge is that, as far as I know, nobody has actually taught under these conditions before. [2] I’m hoping that we will be allowed to convene groups of students sometime in the summer, go into classrooms and find out how things would actually work (and make films to illustrate various strategies for colleagues).

I would really appreciate other resources and suggestions!

[1] Our campus decided to move all large classes online for the Fall, and that the smaller classes would be split between online and in-person (with all classes online after Thanksgiving). Instructors don’t choose their mode of delivery, but my department at least has been able to match instructors preferences with modes pretty well (I was struck by how many colleagues said they would prefer to teach in one mode, but would accommodate to the needs of the department). Being reasonably fit, under 60, and, frankly, missing my students, I volunteered to teach in person.

[2] I have found exactly one picture of college teaching during the 1918-19 flu, and the students are all wearing masks, but are not physically distanced. Even if I’m wrong and plenty of physical distanced instruction during that pandemic, I’m guessing there’s limited social science about it.