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Advising Practices during COVID-19 Online Quarters

This document presents suggestions and best practices developed by the Psychology Department Graduate Program Committee for the Psychology faculty advisors and doctoral students for the remote research and teaching related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are recommendations for advisors, followed by recommendations for students

If you have questions or suggestions, we encourage you to reach out to Kalanit Grill-Spector in her capacity as Director of Graduate Studies, Emily Fay, the GPC faculty (Carol Dweck, Claude Steele, Brian Knutson, Anthony Wagner), and/or your GPC student representatives:

Affective: Yochai Shavit

Cog: Katherine Hermann

Devo: Kayla Good

Neuro: Dawn Finzi

Social: Catherine Thomas

Guidance for Faculty

Communication with advisees should be proactive, frequent, and supportive

Faculty advisors should be proactive and initiate contact with students. Many students are stressed during this prolonged pandemic, while others are adjusting well and are eager to use this time productively. The same student may be struggling at some points and thriving at others. Frequent check-ins from advisors help ensure that no student falls through the cracks, and that all students are supported in their scientific and personal goals in this new online environment. 

When checking in with students, we encourage faculty to resist jumping straight into an intellectual discussion. Provide opportunities for students to discuss how the situation is impacting them. You might ask your students, “What might be impacting your ability to be productive? What is making it hard to engage? How can I be helpful to you at this time?”

We recommend using a combination of methods of communication with varying levels of formality:

  • Frequent quick check-ins just to casually say hello and offer support can help students feel connected and supported during this difficult time. This can be email, slack, etc.
  • Set a regular schedule to have one-on-one meetings with advisees. If these meetings are not already frequent in your lab, we recommend having meetings more frequently during this remote advising situation, perhaps weekly or biweekly. These meetings should be aimed at setting achievable goals for the coming weeks and monitoring their progress. 
  • Hold social zoom/gathertown meetups for your lab. Examples might be a weekly morning coffee chat or a weekly Friday afternoon happy hour. This is a time for the lab to connect and just check in without focusing on research productivity.
  • We encourage area seminars to continue to meet regularly if possible and to continue to be spaces for intellectual engagement.

Adjust expectations

Advisors should have upfront and ongoing conversations with students about what the expectations are during the remote research and learning period and how the pandemic affects their overall planned research and academic progress.

We want to acknowledge that there are still many restrictions and some students are struggling, experiencing significant stress and mental health challenges. Even students who do not appear to be struggling are continuously  adjusting their course, and advisors need to adjust their expectations accordingly. 

Consider the long-term consequences as well. For some students, this disruption may significantly impact the course of their PhD. Dissertation projects may need to be changed, or perhaps students who were originally on track to graduate in 5 years will instead need to stay for 6 years. Especially for students whose degrees may be delayed, faculty should consider plans for 6th year funding (especially for students who are currently in the 3rd and 4th years).

Reimagine what productivity looks like during this time

We encourage advisors and students to be creative with how to use this time, especially for students whose original data collection plans are impacted by the quarantine. Consider:

  • Are there other modes of data collection that might provide a new lens? E.g., online surveys, phone interviews, etc.

  • Are there new questions/analyses that can be answered with data that is already available?

  • Is there relevant literature review or meta analysis work that could be done? 

  • This may be a good opportunity to facilitate new theoretical thinking and/or increase the theoretical depth of one’s research/thesis.

  • Are there new skills the student could be working to learn or improve? 

  • Older students on the GPC encourage younger students to consider starting the ARRR early during this time - it can provide ideas and structure for planning your experiments.

Be specific

Advisors should be specific with suggestions and feedback. Work with students to set specific, shared goals, and timelines. Remember that communication is especially tricky during this time, so be as clear as possible with your feedback.

Invite conversations about how this impacts long-term professional goals

Stanford and many other Universities around the world are under a hiring freeze. We know the financial impact of this crisis is large, and the job market is particularly daunting right now.  We encourage faculty to be open about supporting students as they consider a broad variety of career options, especially advanced students preparing to graduate

Hold an IDP meeting during winter or spring 2021 and before June 1, 2021

While we hope students and their advisors are discussing many of these topics frequently, the IDP provides a space to have a discussion about how COVID-19 is impacting a student’s academic, professional, and personal goals, and to work together to develop a shared set of expectations to move forward. 

Support students outside your lab

When we are all on campus there are many opportunities to engage with students within and outside your lab informally, which are not possible now. Nonetheless, there are still ways you can engage with students, from participating in area seminars, to book clubs, to course instruction, to 1-on-1 discussions. We would like to underscore the value of these meetings to the students. We would also like to recommend that you reach out to first and second year students where you serve as the second FYP reader to meet with them at least once a quarter to touch base with them.

Guidance for Students

Be easy on yourself

The Department knows that COVID-19 and the related restrictions are stressful, and you may be struggling. Please be gentle with yourself and set reasonable expectations during this time. Your health, both physical and mental, should be your top priority.

Reimagine what productivity looks like during this time

Note: this section is a repeat from the Guidance for Faculty section.

We encourage advisors and students to be creative with how to use this time, especially for students whose original data collection plans are impacted by the quarantine. Consider:

  • Are there other modes of data collection that might provide a new lens? E.g., online surveys, phone interviews, etc.

  • Are there new questions/analyses that can be answered with data that is already available?

  • Is there relevant literature review or meta analysis work that could be done? 

  • This may be a good opportunity to facilitate new theoretical thinking and/or increase the theoretical depth of one’s research/thesis.

  • Are there new skills the student could be working to learn or improve? 

  • Older students on the GPC encourage younger students to consider starting the ARRR early during this time - it can provide ideas and structure for planning your experiments.

Identify your challenges

Students experience different challenges during this time to both their well-being and their work. Try to identify what you wish you could do (or do differently) and what stands in your way from doing it. If you are comfortable doing so, communicate these challenges to your advisor, and others in your network. They might be able to help you identify ways to overcome these challenges, or at least offer understanding and support. 

Take time to reflect and adjust your IDP

We believe that it is important for students to hold an IDP meeting with their advisor. This should be planned for either the winter or spring of 2021 and before June 2021. Take this as an opportunity to adjust your goals, and assure you are able to prioritize your well-being. With continuous adjustment of your IDP as the pandemic progresses, be proactive in seeking your advisor’s feedback on your adjusted goals and share your priorities with them.

Use your resources

Your advisors, the faculty leadership, the staff, and fellow students are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Specifically, first and second year students are encouraged to reach out to their second FYP faculty advisors and 3+ years are encouraged to reach out to their committee members to seek feedback and input on their research. 

Graduate Life Office, Vaden Health Services, CAPS, the WINGers, the Grant-in-Aid program, and many other resources are actively working to support you. 

If you don’t know where to start, you can always reach out to Emily Fay, Kalanit Grill-Spector, and/or your advisor.

Please review the Virtual Well-Being website. This website is updated daily and only includes information applicable to our current shelter-in-place, distance-learning situation. Featured resources range from mental health, to financial well-being, to community-specific resources, to online community events.