Abbott Reflects on Changes in Teaching, Learning Brought on by Pandemic 

Maura Abbott (second from right) participated in “Celebrating Teaching Transformations at Columbia: A Faculty Panel,” which opened the Celebration of Learning Symposium held last month.

Improvisations in teaching and learning made necessary by COVID-19, from asynchronous virtual classes to clinical instruction via telemedicine, have led to unexpected benefits and new understandings, Columbia University faculty agreed at a panel that kicked off the 2023 Celebration of Teaching and Learning Symposium. 

The Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching and Learning sponsored the two-day event, held March 21 and 22, 2023. 

Maura Abbott, PhD, assistant dean of clinical affairs, was one of four panelists, along with Thomas Groll, PhD, of the School of International and Public Affairs; Devon Rupley, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC); and Katja Vogt, PhD, a professor of philosophy, at the event, held in Low Library. A celebratory reception followed. 

The panel was a follow-up to the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching and Learning’s online guide, “Teaching Transformations: Faculty Reflections and Insights on Pandemic Practices,” published in Fall 2022, which featured narratives from faculty across Columbia University. 

Panelists provided updates on their teaching transformation process and discussed how their pandemic responses changed them as instructors.  

Abbott described how the Oncology Urgent Care Clinic she runs became one of the first fever clinics at CUIMC, with Columbia Nursing students working alongside experienced NPs and nurses. The unprecedented situation leveled the playing field for students and teachers, she said, leading to a more open dynamic. 

Developing strategies for teaching via Zoom and asynchronous learning was a huge challenge, but also made learning more accessible for students, Abbott noted. Learning clinical skills via telemedicine meant students paid more attention to cues like body language and facial expression, she added. “We were teaching students how to provide good, empathetic medical care through Zoom.” 

Experiencing the pandemic gave students added maturity, and an invaluable life lesson in what it means to be a nurse, Abbott said. “No matter what the world looks like, they are responsible for someone’s life. That is the quintessential piece.”