Preparing for the unexpected in a COVID-19 world: The teaching dilemmas of a mid-semester faculty change

Deborah M. Gray, Jeremy T. Bond, Jessica M. Wicks, Nancy Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the perceived rarity of mid-semester faculty changes, there is a shortage of literature to guide administrators and faculty on best practices for handing the dilemmas associated with mid-semester faculty changes. This is particularly concerning given the uncertainty of situations like the COVID-19 global pandemic and recent research that finds that future extreme epidemics are likely to happen. This paper seeks to answer two questions (1) What can faculty and administrators do to prepare students who are experiencing a mid-semester faculty change, and (2) What procedures and processes are in place to assist the incoming faculty? Data were collected through a survey of students who had underwent a mid-semester faculty change and interviews with administrators who deal with personnel issues like this one. The data suggest faculty should first meet with students to assess their progress before jumping into an established lesson plan (the opposite of how faculty normally prepare to teach a class). Clear communication about expectations, organization of the course materials, and instructor flexibility was identified as keys to student success during a teaching disruption. These findings align with decades of research on teaching and learning. Administrators should create contingency plans that go beyond the personnel transaction and that help faculty quickly prepare for a transition that is student focused. More research is needed to identify the best administrative processes and procedures to assist faculty in a smooth transition when taking over a course mid-semester.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-318
Number of pages34
JournalTuning Journal for Higher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • crisis, COVID-19
  • instructional support
  • mid-semester faculty change, teaching
  • pandemic
  • turnover


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