Current Projects

Exploring Faculty Teaching Practices, Technology Knowledge, Attitudes, and Mental Well-Being During the COVID 19 Pandemic

Fresno State Undergrad Researchers: Makayla Bailey, Arashnoor Gill, and Patricia Fernandez


In early 2020, the road to improving student success through active learning became additionally complex. The world was thrown into crisis with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Most higher education classrooms shifted to online learning, disrupting intended teaching practices.


This unique context, in tandem with the importance of using active learning to ensure student success, led our research team to explore how postsecondary teaching practices for 226 instructors changed during the coronavirus pandemic, including how teaching practices were impacted by attitudes about teaching, knowledge of using internet-based technologies for teaching, and faculty mental well-being.


Some of our initial findings support that active learning significantly decreased with the sudden move to online learning. This was most pronounced for faculty with limited teaching-with-technology knowledge and for faculty with beliefs that learning happens through transmission.


Data collection continues in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 to explore how teaching continues to evolve in the age of COVID19.

Investigating the Impact of Values Affirmations on the Achievement Gap of Underrepresented Minority Students in STEM

Fresno State Undergrad Researchers: Noel Fernandez, Orlando Lopez, & Glen Martin

Graduate Student Researcher: Micah Johnson

In this intervention-based study, we posit that student success comes from supporting students’ social and emotional well-being (at least in part). Participating students do an easy-to-implement writing task called “values affirmation” (Cohen et al., 2006, 2009; Sherman et al., 2013; Walton et al., 2014). Values affirmation tasks support all students, but especially those who are most likely to experience a negative classroom climate, that is, individuals who are negatively stereotyped in academic settings. 

By exploring grade distribution outcomes in 8 different undergraduate STEM courses, we hope to add to the evidence that the achievement gap between white and URM students can be reduced by mitigating psychological and emotional stress.


Values affirmation interventions have demonstrated effects in reducing the achievement gap for URM undergraduate students in STEM (Jordt et al., 2017; Harackiewicz et al., 2014; Tibbett et al., 2016), and can also improve course outcomes for more privileged students (Jordt et al., 2017). 

Why do Faculty Lecture?: An Exploration of Teaching Norms, Values, and Organizational Climate

Graduate Student Researchers (both now graduated): Lillian Senn & Evelin Muñoz

Undergraduate Student Researchers: Manaal Mian and Miriam Kiran

Why would a group of people trained to follow the evidence ignore years of educational psychology?

This research project examines the instructional practices of faculty through (a) development and validation of survey instruments and (b) collecting observation and interview data to understand how organizational climate (e.g. department leadership, resources, professional development, and the respect of colleagues) influences faculty teaching practices.


I have led our grant team to develop, pilot, and validate two new instruments for the project: a survey of organizational climate (SCII, Walter et al., 2020) and a survey of instructional practices (PIPS; Walter et al., 2016). This process included careful review of the literature, critical examination of available instruments, pilot testing with more than 1000 instructors from 7 institutions of higher education, and exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of survey constructs. 


The second phase of the project includes classroom observations (using the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM, COPUS) and interviews with instructors. The goal is to triangulate survey responses, interviews, and observations of faculty to better understand how organizational climate influences the instructional practices of STEM faculty. 

© 2021 by Emily M. Walter, PhD

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