UNT professor researches pandemic’s impact on learning environments, what teachers can do for fall

Christopher Long, assistant professor of K-12 science education at the University of North Texas, is researching students' psychosocial perceptions of their learning environments before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy University of North Texas; Designed by Cherry He/Community Impact Newspaper)
Christopher Long, assistant professor of K-12 science education at the University of North Texas, is researching students' psychosocial perceptions of their learning environments before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy University of North Texas; Designed by Cherry He/Community Impact Newspaper)

Christopher Long, assistant professor of K-12 science education at the University of North Texas, is researching students' psychosocial perceptions of their learning environments before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy University of North Texas; Designed by Cherry He/Community Impact Newspaper)

A University of North Texas professor’s research may help teachers from all levels prepare for nontraditional class settings in the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in the spring 2020 semester, Christopher Long, assistant professor of K-12 science education at UNT, was conducting research on psychosocial perceptions of learning environments with middle school students in Denton using virtual reality headsets.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to North Texas, the students from Long’s research were sent home for virtual learning, as were the students from his UNT classrooms. The study fell apart soon after, Long said.

But this did not stop the four-year UNT professor’s research. Instead, Long said, he shifted his angle to align with students’ current reality.

“This is affecting these middle schoolers because their whole world has been blown up, as far as school goes,” Long said. “And we looked at our own UNT students, and they were all sent home.”


Long’s research now is centered on students’ “normal” learning environment before the pandemic struck and what it has been like since the rapid shift to online learning, he said. As part of the study, around 230 students from UNT’s education department filled out a survey in the spring semester.

“That falls back on the idea that students are the experts in their learning,” he said. “You can have outsiders look at what’s going on, but if you really want to know what’s happening, you have to actually ask the students.”

The survey aims to analyze five dimensions of learning environments, Long said: student cohesiveness, teacher support, involvement, task orientation and equity.

“[Students] report, in general, that they preferred the way it was before the pandemic,” Long said.

Only quantitative data is available for now, Long said. Early conclusions indicate there are small, but significant differences in students' perceptions of their learning environments pre- and post-COVID-19, he said.

Survey results indicate the most notable drop was in student cohesiveness, Long said.

"[That] means students felt, before the break, like they were part of the class,” he said. “After the break, they kind of lost that feeling."

Knowing this piece of data could help teachers and professors know how to tackle their classrooms in the fall, Long said, especially those planning to use an online format.

“It’s going to take some sitting down and thinking, 'What can I do to make the students feel like they’re part of the class?'” he said.

Long further suggested that teachers be purposeful in their lesson plans to foster interactivity to help mitigate the issues students face with online learning.

“We can’t push our desks together and work anymore, but we can set up chat rooms in Zoom,” he said.
By Elizabeth Ucles
Elizabeth is the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Frisco edition. She graduated from St. Edward's University with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric with a journalism concentration and a minor in Spanish in May 2019. Elizabeth covers public and higher education, development and transportation.


MOST RECENT

Frisco City Council on Jan. 19 approved project and financial plans for the city’s sixth tax incremental reinvestment zone. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)
Frisco council approves project, finance plans for Hall Office Park tax reinvestment zone

The city of Frisco is moving forward with plans to build out infrastructure around Hall Office Park.

Chicken-fried steak and eggs ($11.99) are served with hash browns and Texas toast. (Courtesy The Cottage)
The Cottage eatery opens in Roanoke and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Sushi Box is set to open in west Frisco sometime in early summer 2021. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Sushi Box coming to west Frisco in summer 2021

A new sushi joint is coming to west Frisco in summer 2021, according to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Presidium at Edgestone, which opened in summer 2020, recently completed its final phases of construction. (Courtesy Presidium at Edgestone)
Presidium at Edgestone active-adult luxury community now open in Frisco

Construction has finished on Presidium at Edgestone, Frisco’s first luxury community for active adults.

Feeding Texas hosted a Jan. 19 webinar to discuss legislative highlights for the 87th Texas Legislature. (Screenshot courtesy Feeding Texas)
Food insecurity in Texas' 87th Legislature: Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas to propose legislation addressing hunger

Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas hosted a webinar Jan. 19 to discuss increasing funding and accessibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the 87th legislative session.

Volunteers prepare care packages for those found unsheltered and facing homelessness on the night of the point-in-time count in 2019. (Courtesy Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance)
Annual homelessness count adapted to answer questions brought on by pandemic in Collin, Dallas counties

The point-in-time count in Collin and Dallas counties will not look like it has in recent years, when upward of 1,000 volunteers would canvas the streets to get an accurate count of the number of unsheltered residents facing homelessness.

Bigdash started when Asmaa Khattab began experimenting with Arab ice cream, also called bousa, and kanafeh recipes at home. (Francesca D'Annunzio/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bigdash to celebrate 1 year of serving kanafeh in Frisco

Bigdash, a bakery selling Middle Eastern sweets, is marking its first anniversary.

As of November, Sylvan Learning in Frisco has new owners. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Sylvan Learning in Frisco now operating under new ownership

In late November, Nizar Bhulani and Frank Kesh bought seven Sylvan Learning locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including one in Frisco.

After pandemic-related delays, the sauna fitness studio is gearing up to open a new location in west Frisco. (Courtesy Hotworx)
HotWorx sauna fitness studio coming to west Frisco

Hotworx is opening up a new Frisco location at the intersection of FM 423 and Stonebrook Parkway in west Frisco.

COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

The 4,000-square-foot, roughly $2 million performing arts center has a capacity of 210 seats, and numerous organizations plan to perform shows at the venue. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nack Theater opening with Disney's 'Aladdin Jr.' in downtown Frisco

The first show is one of 14 youth productions scheduled for 2021.