Education researchers address pandemic-related issues, thanks to emergency funding

As a part of our work to transform the way we learn, teach, and research in the current ever-changing landscape, the Faculty of Education launched the COVID-19 Emergency Research Fund earlier this year as a way to provide small, internal grants for COVID-19 related research.

In the spring, four inital projects were funded. As of September 2020, eight additional projects have been funded, bringing the total up to twelve.

Each project has the potential to increase our understanding of educational responses to COVID-19, develop implementable solutions to key challenges associated with the pandemic, and/or examine philosophical, policy, and administrative effects of COVID-19 on institutions and beyond.

Funded in Fall 2020

Allyson Hadwin

The role of self-regulatory competencies in mediating the impact of Covid 19 distress on academic success

Principal Investigator: Allyson Hadwin

As social distancing continues, postsecondary institutions are delivering academic programs entirely online. This shift in students’ learning environment may introduce challenges that impede their academic engagement. Psychological distress, feelings of isolation, technology-related issues, and limited access to resources, peers, and instructors may pose challenges to students’ motivation and academic performance. Self-regulatory competencies have been associated with stronger academic performance and persistence.

We hypothesize that developing these competencies may also play a role in buffering the influence of COVID related distress and languishing mental health on academic performance. This study examines the development of self-regulatory competencies and its effect on buffering the effect of COVID distress when students have access to one of three kinds of academic support: (a)  a brief module introducing tips and strategies for online learning, (b) a comprehensive library of self-regulatory strategies and techniques or (c) an established course designed to support the development of metacognitive awareness, and self-regulatory skill and strategies for leveraging learning and motivation (ED-D101).

Sarah Nutter

How Does Communication of COVID-19 Risk Factors Influence Weight Stigma?

Principal Investigator: Sarah Nutter

Governments and news media have regularly communicated the risk factors associated with the development of severe symptoms and complications associated with COVID-19. Of the risk factors that have been identified, obesity is one that has been frequently communicated in the media. Although it is important to educate the general public on important COVID-19 risk factors, it is also important to ensure that such communication does not inadvertently contribute to stigma for at-risk populations.

Despite research evidence that body weight is incredibly complex and is not an accurate representation of an individual’s health, individuals with higher body weights experience weight stigma in all aspects of their lives, including the quantity and quality of healthcare they receive. Thus, it is important to examine any unintended consequences of weight-related COVID-19 risk factors on the weight stigma of the general public, as well as the health-seeking behaviours of individuals with higher body weights.


Learning to Teach Nature-based Physical Activities for Physically Distanced Times in an Online Insturctional Format

Principal Investigator: Sandra Gibbons

Physical distancing requirements have resulted in the transition to online learning at UVic, and while the transition to online learning for someone courses has been relatively smooth, courses that involve experiential components are being challenged to find ways to include experiences that are equivalent to those offered in a face-to-face learning context. The purpose of this study is to pilot and evaluate an online version of EPHE 435 Cultural and Outdoor Physical Activity that includes creating an experience equivalent to those offered in a face-to-face context.

EPHE 435, a fourth-year elective in the BEd elementary program, has a strong focus on helping pre-service teachers participate in, develop and lead nature-based physical activity (NBPA). In the face-to-face delivery of EPHE 435, preservice teachers spend the majority of the course outside in nature interacting with their classmates. We are attempting to create the experience of participating in the natural environment, and this learning cycle in the online version of EPHE 435, within the context of physical distancing requirements and other required COVID-19 safety measures.

Gina Harrison 

Reading Intervention During a Pandemic: A Program Re-design and Pilot Feasibility Study for Struggling Elementary Readers

Principal Investigator: Gina Harrison

Educational programs for children with special needs, including children with reading disabilities, are particularly affected due to the disruption in service delivery experienced during the current pandemic. A key question addressed by the current study is how to effectively adapt face-to-face reading interventions, typical of pre-COVID-19 learning support, to an online mode of delivery. This two-phase project involves the re-design of an intervention program for at-risk readers in Grades 2 to 5 from face-to-face to online delivery in the first phase. The second phase will be a pilot study to test the feasibility of the re-designed program with children, collecting child, teacher, and parent feedback.

Overall, the project’s findings are intended to (1) increase understanding of educational responses through the re-design and feasibility evaluation of a reading intervention, (2) provide implementable solutions to the challenge of disrupted service delivery for struggling readers, and (3) inform philosophical, policy, and administrative effects of COVID-19 in relation to inclusion and learner diversity.



Fostering Online Student-Centred Environments during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study

Principal Investigator: Tatiana Gounko

The purpose of this study entitled “Fostering Online Student-Centred Environments during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study” is (1) to find out how students and instructors adapt to and interact with course content and each other through Brightspace during the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) to examine how instructors’, students’, and course designers’ objectives, ideas about and experiences with best practices may contribute to fostering an online student-centered environment.

Using a qualitative case study approach, the research team will explore three specific dimensions of online learning - teaching, cognitive, and social presence, and challenges associated with online-only instruction. The findings of this project will add to the body of research on how online learning and adaptive technology can be used to promote student centered learning, access, participation, and, ultimately, academic success.

Jillian Roberts 

The Unique Lived Experiences of University Students During the Age of COVID-19: Implications for Policy Development and Mental Health Service Delivery

Principal Investigator: Jillian Roberts

The mental health impacts of COVID-19 on undergraduate students are unknown. Researchers highlight and recommend a more holistic understanding of COVID-19 related mental health impacts, as well as an investigation by mental health specialists to learn how to mitigate the risks of social isolation on young individuals. Ignoring these important views could cause significant mental health risks and an inappropriate approach to address and support undergraduate students’ overall needs.

The project will study University student’s unique insights on their experiences of social isolation during the COVID-19 and how they experienced University response and support. We will interview a diverse set of up to 10 UVic undergraduate students who are over the age of 19. We will gather their narrative through the digital platform Zoom, and will ask about their unique experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe by better understanding the unique needs of these heterogeneous populations, University administration and Public Health policy makers will be better able to develop innovative adaptions of services, and able to match access to services in needs.

 Kathy Sanford

Teacher Candidates Learning to Teach in COVID-19 conditions

Principal Investigator: Kathy Sanford

As educators face uncertain times, the conditions for K-12 learning also remains uncertain. As Teacher education programs adapt it is important to understand how teacher candidates are coping with the changed conditions, and how education programs can best offer new forms of learning experiences. Understanding learning as socially constructed ways in which relationships are developed is critical to developing professional skills, understandings, and attitudes.

It is important to consider new ways to support teacher candidates and prepare them for teaching in different conditions, in order for them to become adaptable as well as to understand teacher candidates’ perspectives as they learn to teach in 2020. The research question is as follows: How do teacher candidates who have lost opportunities to work in schools with teachers and students, and are now engaging in schools that are operating in very different ways 1) reimagine their role(s) as teacher; and 2) learn to become adaptable and teach using diverse methods?

Sungjun Won 

Investigating academic, social, and emotional self-efficacy as predictors of academic success and wellbeing in online learning

Principal Investigator: Sungjun Won

While balancing academic success and wellbeing as a student has always been challenging, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has added additional challenges with health uncertainly and a rapid shift to online learning. The recent shift to mandatory online learning presents numerous challenges for students, which are qualitatively distinct from those in face-to-face learning. Specifically, many online learners experience increased social and emotional challenges, communication problems, distractions, and the additional demands of navigating online learning tools.

This research project will focus on students’ beliefs about their capabilities to not only perform academic tasks successfully but also interact and communicate with their instructors and peers and regulate their emotions successfully. Findings emerging from this research project will directly inform instructors how to effectively leverage instructional strategies that support students’ academic, social, and emotional self-efficacy and ultimately promote their academic success and wellbeing in online learning contexts.

Funded in Spring 2020:

COVID-19 and Mental Health Resources for Asians in Canada

Principal investigator: Fred Chou
Co-investigators: Jin-Sun Yoon, Catherine Costigan, Nancy Clark
Research Assistants: Macayla Yan, Qwi-Sun Yoon Potkins

Fred Chou is a researcher and Assistant Professor within the Department of Education Psychology and Leadership Studies with a number of focuses, amongst them intergenerational trauma and Chinese-Canadian families. He is currently leading a project to develop mental health resources for practitioners and educators to address the re-emergence of anti-Asian sentiments due to COVID-19.

The objective is to develop practical guides to support the mental health of individuals of Asian ancestry in Canada and to establish a research program to understand the mental health effects of COVID-19 related racism. The practice guides will include written materials for service providers, highlighting key considerations to support the mental health of Asians in Canada, as well as self-reflexive guides for youth of Asian ancestry to situate and understand their experience.
Impacts on, challenges of, and innovative responses from Indigenous language learning communities during COVID-19

Principal investigator: Onowa McIvor
Co-investigators: Dr. Kari Chew, Kahtehrón:ni Stacey, Aliki Marinakis
Research Assistant: Melpaetkwae Matthew

Onowa McIvor is an associate professor in the Department of Indigenous Education whose work focuses on Indigenous adults’ contributions in reviving Indigenous languages throughout Canada. Onowa, together with a team of co-researchers have received COVID-19 Emergency funding to research how Indigenous language work has been impacted by the pandemic.

Their research will gather responses to the pandemic from Indigenous individuals, communities, and organizations via social media tracking, a survey, and interviews with key contributors. By ‘storying’ a collective experience about how to sustain Indigenous language revitalization efforts during the pandemic, the team will then create and share solutions to the challenges faced by Indigenous language communities, potentially creating connections and collaboration between groups.

The team’s initial observations show that Indigenous language activists, speakers, and learners continue to turn to their languages for comfort, guidance, and direction.
Supporting early childhood STEM education during the pandemic (and afterwards): Examining parents’ and early childhood educators’ perceptions of a digital toolkit

Principal investigator: Todd Milford
Co-investigator: Christine Tippett

Nearing the end of a two year research project funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, Todd Milford, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and his team are planning now to use a grant from the COVID-19 Emergency Research Fund to create a free-to-use digital resource available to early childhood educators and parents.

This resource will be tied to multiple platforms, starting with Pinterest, and will provide access to a variety of STEM learning experiences using common household materials or other low cost items from businesses that remain open during the pandemic. By designing a variety of Pinterest boards reflective of children’s interests in subjects such as building and painting, Milford is seeking to create an effective means of developing interest in STEM subjects.

Sam Liu Excellence in Research Award


COVID-19 and its impact on health behavior: Predicting physical distancing and physical activity in a representative sample of adult Canadians

Principal investigators: Ryan Rhodes and Sam Liu
Co-investigators: Alex Lithopoulos, Mauricio Garcia-Barrera, and Chun-Qing Zhang

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a wealth of challenges, as well as a necessity to find new solutions to help protect both public and individual health. Social distancing and physical activity are two examples of these deliberate responses to the challenges faced during COVID-19, behaviours which primary researchers Ryan Rhodes and Sam Liu have set out to research with co-researchers Alex Lithopoulos, Mauricio Garcia-Barrera, and Chun-Qing Zhang.

Through the use of survey, the goal of their COVID-19 Emergency Funded study is to better understand predictors of both social distancing behaviour and physical activity during the pandemic, exploring socio-demographic and personality traits to understand variations in findings.