Webinar 2: COVID-19 and Educational Impacts across Secondary and Higher Education

Date: November 24, 2022
12:00pm – 1:15pm Eastern Time

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Presentation #1: Urban secondary student well-being during the pandemic

Christine Corso, University of Toronto

Ontario schools were closed for 32 weeks between March 2020 and June 2022, accounting for some of the longest lockdowns in the world. The limited evidence available indicates that the pandemic has had a negative impact on students’ mental health (Boak et al., 2022; TDSB, 2021; Vaillancourt et al., 2021); but, Canada lacks a longitudinal study that would track these changes across demographic groups (Georgiades et al., 2021). This mixed methods study presents demographic-linked findings from a pandemic-era survey of secondary student mental health and well-being in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB, 2021), which is expanded on by student focus groups and student and teacher interviews (Greene et al., 1989).

The survey indicated that student mental health outcomes were poorer than pre-pandemic levels, with some groups faring better than others. Specifically, non-binary and female students had poorer mental health outcomes than male students; and — counter to the research hypothesis — students attending high-SES secondary schools reported worse mental health outcomes than those attending low-SES secondary schools. Interviews with students and teachers conducted in spring 2022 suggest that these differences might be partly attributable to family and friend dynamics that shifted during lockdowns, as well as the impact of the pandemic on extra-curriculars.

Though schools are currently open, online learning is now a part of many students’ “new normal” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2022). Understanding how student populations fared during the pandemic will help systems 1) create more responsive recovery plans, and 2) prepare for the rollout of mandatory online learning.

Presentation #2: Teetering on the edge of chaos: Glimpses into the work of deans managing uncertainty and complexity during the pandemic

David Mandzuk, University of Manitoba

Much has been written about the multiple roles that deans play in the contemporary university, how they act as buffers between senior administration and their faculties and how they balance their roles as academic leaders with other roles that increasingly take up their time and attention (Gmelch, 2003; Mandzuk, 2015). Much has also been written on how poorly deans are prepared for the transition from being accomplished academics to being effective leaders (Bowness, 2018; Seale, 2021). However, what is often missing from the discussion are deans’ own voices as they reflect on their experiences trying to manage the inevitable dilemmas, crises, and challenges that characterize their work, and this is particularly true during the pandemic.

With this in mind, the purpose of the proposed presentation is to share preliminary findings from my current research into the experience of deans at a large Canadian university as they’ve managed an array of institutional and unit-specific challenges during the pandemic. The  literature on complexity leadership theory and complex adaptive systems has provided the theoretical framework for the 19 semi-structured interviews that I have conducted as part of the qualitative case study approach used. The proposed presentation will be an opportunity for me to share some of my findings that are sociologically related and to discuss the implications of those findings for leading in higher education in uncertain and complex times.

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