It is with a discomfiting sense of déjà vu that I write to you today. As was the case last year, we are again saddened to report that we will be unable to host an in-person version of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) this October 14-16.
I can promise that I never expected to write this note. Back in the Spring, when immunizations were on the rise and transmission was on the decline, we felt very sure that we would be gathering for networking, professional development, and most importantly, hugs in Louisville. This is an expectation that I clung to for as long as I possibly could, and those of you who emailed me with inquiries about the conference know this to be the case. “We are moving forward!” was my constant refrain.
I know that for many of us, ACT is one of the few places that we feel valued for the things we ourselves most deeply value—teaching and teachers. And it was this craving for belongingness and support that had me holding out hope for as long as was feasible. But for reasons that will be detailed at greater length below, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have yet again made it impossible for us to convene this year.
Rationale for moving to Virtual ACT
There are many factors that contributed to our decision to move ACT into the virtual realm. Here are just a few:
- Our Terms and Policies, which attendees attest to at the time of registration, indicate that we will uphold all CDC and Kentucky Department of Public Health recommendations and policies. The CDC recommends not holding large gatherings at this time. Additionally, nearly the entire state of Kentucky is currently listed as “very high” (i.e., red) when it comes to average daily cases. The governor’s guidelines for “red counties” include “limiting in-person community gatherings and postponing large events.”
- The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub pulls together mean and median pandemic estimates across 9 different university models. The consistent prediction is that we may hit the peak of the entire pandemic in October. Sometimes that peak is right before the conference and sometimes it's right after, depending on which variable you are looking at, but the public health implications of holding a large gathering near the peak of a pandemic (or even just a surge) are dire. Not to mention the ethical and moral implications of us choosing to gather in a location that is already overwhelmed by the pandemic, despite the fact that Kentucky's peak is likely at least a month away.
- Many of our face-to-face presenters have already switched their presentations from F2F to virtual for a variety of reasons, including health concerns pertaining to unvaccinated minors or immunocompromised individuals, as well as because their universities have reinstituted travel bans. Even some universities who began the Fall semester allowing travel have already instituted new bans. This is a trend we would expect to increase as we move toward October. This is problematic because we have a contractual agreement with the hotel that serves as our conference site, and these contractual agreements delineate specific amounts of expenses that we, as a group, need to spend at a hotel to “hold up our end of the bargain.” We have been fortunate in recent years to go well above the threshold that our hotel sites require, but this year, we certainly would not. We would pay a financial penalty if ACT was not sufficiently large.
- The data on the waning efficacy of vaccines is unclear, but if the data the CDC is currently utilizing for decision-making is accurate, then many of our attendees will be pre-booster but at their lowest point of immunity at the time of the conference. That is, if our attendees got their vaccines as soon as they were allowed to (around March, depending on location, health, age, etc.), their 8-month booster window would open up in November. This means that attendee immunity would be at its lowest point in October, when the conference is occurring.
- The data are still unclear on the transmissibility of Delta among vaccinated, masked people. However, it is more transmissible than the previous variants, and vaccinated individuals can pass it to one another and to unvaccinated folks. Additionally, it’s important to note that some conference activities would occur unmasked, such as eating and other types of fellowship. Even if we shifted to box lunches in hotel rooms for every meal, folks would still gather and participate in maskless activities, and that's when transmission could happen. Relatedly, if folks truly just planned to go to the sessions and then spend all other time solo in their hotel rooms, then we could approximate that exact thing, and much safer, through a virtual conference.
What the future holds for ACT 2021
Although a Virtual ACT was not our original plan, and although we have a much shorter window to make this switch than we did in 2020, the ACT Steering Committee is dedicated to providing you with an excellent experience. Fortunately, we have the wonderful virtual conference shepherded by Jordan Troisi in 2020 as a template, and we can celebrate that we were already planning for a (partial) virtual component to our 2021 conference from day one.
Here are the types of programming that we anticipate will be a part of virtual ACT 2021 (please note, circumstances may require these to change):
- Synchronous virtual programming on Thursday, October 14th and Friday, October 15th. (So keep your cleared schedules clear!) We’ll begin on Thursday afternoon with a conference welcome, the presidential keynote, and interactive activities. Friday will include additional keynote addresses, a few lunchtime PIEs, plus a small number of concurrent symposia at various times throughout the day. After concluding with an inspirational keynote, we’ll close out Friday evening with the fellowship we all crave.
- A robust program of asynchronous virtual symposia, workshops, posters, and award commendations, consisting of recorded presentations from our original virtual presenters and any face-to-face presenters who would like to offer their work virtually.
- Access to both synchronous and asynchronous ACT 2021 through a dedicated ACT website, at the cost of $25 for STP members and $50 for non-members. At the website, attendees will be able to access synchronous Zoom links, view recorded presentations and posters, and examine our full conference program, which will include links to presenter resources such as presentation slides, recommended reading, and more.
Procedures and the pathway forward
Those of you viewing this message may fit into many different roles. We hope to clarify what this change in ACT means to you with the information below, and in the weeks to come when we unveil more details, but please let us know if you have any questions:
- Those who have already registered and paid for ACT: STP’s Executive Director, Tom Pusateri (firstname.lastname@example.org), will arrange for you to receive a refund for your registration. Tom will contact each registrant to determine if you would prefer to receive a full refund (i.e., no access to our online content) or a partial refund (i.e., access to our online content; you will be reimbursed the difference between the face-to-face and online registration fees). If you paid the non-member fee, Tom will also inquire as to whether you would like to apply part of your registration to STP membership in 2022.
For those who have submitted work for presentation at ACT, in the weeks to come:
- A small fraction of presenters will be invited to give a synchronous presentation of your work. These invitations will be based on scores from the original scoring rubric the ACT Steering Committee utilized to make submission decisions.
- The remaining face-to-face presenters will be invited to record an asynchronous version of their presentation (or provide a slide of your poster) for upload to the ACT 2021 website. Presenters who requested a virtual format prior to this email will still be invited to submit a virtual presentation/poster slide. These videos and slides will be available to conference attendees indefinitely.
- All synchronous and asynchronous presenters (excepting poster presenters) will have the opportunity to submit a link to a Google Drive Folder of your own that will be hyperlinked on the conference program. This folder could include presentation slides and any other resources you’d like to share with attendees. A how-to video for this optional process is forthcoming.
- For those who received a submission acceptance to ACT 2021 but would rather not create a virtual presentation, you will have the opportunity to “opt-in” to have your work considered for presentation at ACT 2022 next year in Pittsburgh, PA. Those who opt-in will have their submission re-evaluated with the other 2022 ACT submissions.
- For our exhibitors and sponsors: We will be reaching out to you individually to discuss refunds and/or virtual sponsor options.
In the coming weeks, we will have more details about these pathways forward. And we wish we could have communicated this shift sooner, but truly, it was not something any of us anticipated. However, we look forward to working with you, hearing from you, and constructing an ACT 2021 that we can all be proud of. Thank you, as always, for being the delightful people that you are — folks committed to the cultivation and celebration of teaching and teachers, folks that I am proud to call my colleagues and my friends.
Director, Annual Conference on Teaching
The Teaching of Psychology
A 2021 STP ACT
The Society for the Teaching of Psychology announces the second Teaching of Psychology Incubator (TOPInc). Like a business incubator, TOPInc will help individuals develop and accelerate ideas they have for non-traditional scholarly impact. We invite all teachers of psychology to join us for this free pre-conference workshop.
TOPInc will allow a small group of registrants, who have ideas for things like starting conferences, blogs, social media presences, podcasts, books, articles, or resources related to teaching psychology, to sit down with experienced innovators who will share expertise in the following areas:
Whether ideas are at the very beginning, middle, or end of development, workshop mentors will help move innovators toward more defined and ultimately successful and sustainable plans for their projects.
We invite all teachers of psychology to join us for this free pre-conference workshop, on October 14, 2021 from 1-5pm at the conference hotel in Louisville Kentucky. It is limited to the first 10 registrants who will work closely with TOPInc mentors. This year’s mentors are Jane Halonen, Garth Neufeld, and Anna Ropp.
A Note from Lindsay Masland, ACT Director
(adapted from April TOPNews,posted April 6, 2021)
I know that the question on everyone's minds is, "Are we really going to have a face-to-face conference in October?"
And the answer is . . . "Yes!" I hope to be offering vaccinated hugs and air high-fives (your choice) to all of you at the Annual Conference on Teaching from October 14-16th at the Louisville Marriott Downtown in Louisville, KY.
This decision has not been made lightly, of course. We've had so many angles to consider, including the need to fulfill our hotel contracts or risk significant financial penalty, the improving but fragile vaccination and infection rates, social distancing and masking policies in Kentucky, and various concerns about travel fund availability and conference attendee comfort. In weighing all of these factors, we have decided to move forward with a face-to-face conference.
Of course, dramatic shifts in health or financial data could affect our ability to do this, but based on current trends, we expect to be in Louisville, and we are working hard to create an event that will be safe and enjoyable for everyone. We are also considering offering an asynchronous virtual component to the conference, as we know not everyone will be able to travel this October. Financial and logistical considerations preclude us from offering concurrent face-to-face and synchronous virtual programming, but we are looking into ways to make this conference experience more accessible to all.
Once we get the details sorted out, we'll share the registration form, but in the meantime, don't forget to submit your presentation proposals! I'm pleased to report we've had a steady stream of submissions since day one, so things are looking good for a great conference. This year, we are accepting proposals in the following formats: poster, 25- or 45-minute symposium, 2-hr workshop, "Live from Louisville," and Lunch PIE. Full information regarding submission types and themes, required elements by submission type, and answers to other frequently asked questions can be found at the link above. We are now accepting proposals through Friday, April 30th.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the 2021 ACT!
Director, Annual Conference on Teaching
2021 STP Workshop on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
at the Annual Conference on Teaching
The Society for the Teaching of Psychology announces the 11th annual STP SoTL Workshop. SoTL is defined as methodologically rigorous scholarly work conducted to enhance teaching and advance learning, ideally resulting in peer-reviewed products made public. We invite applications from faculty and graduate students who would like to accomplish developing and/or writing a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project.
The workshop will allow small groups of faculty/graduate student members to receive guidance on SoTL research from an experienced mentor and consult with both statistical and publication experts. Each participant will be placed with a mentor and a team of 3-4 peers. The mentor will support participants through the research process, which may include discussing ideas or analyzing, outlining, and writing a final product. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the research on teaching and learning. Participants gain support in how to design a study, analyze learning data, and/or writing a complete manuscript.
This workshop will be held at the same time and place as the STP Annual Teaching Conference (ACT). The cost of the SoTL workshop is $180 and includes all meals AND keynote sessions of the concurrent ACT Conference.
Mentors work with their teams starting in Summer, 2021 (by email/phone) to prepare for the workshop during the ACT Conference (as well as a potential pre-conference option).
If you are interested in being considered for the 2021 SoTL Workshop, please complete the application online using the link below before May 31, 2021. To apply, click here (requires login).
Only current STP members may apply for this workshop.
For questions or more information, contact the Director of the SoTL Workshop at email@example.com.