Let's show we care!
The Educationalist. By Alexandra Mihai
With so many things out of our control these days, one thing we can do is try to show our students we care. This doesn't mean lowering our standards and expectations, it does not mean relaxing deadlines and course policies. On the contrary, it adds a much-needed layer of empathy and awareness that can only make us better teachers. Here are some ideas on how to start:
Let's offer structure and support. If it's not your style to be very personal in your teaching (it certainly isn't mine), one great way to show you care is by providing a well-structured learning path, with embedded scaffolding and support points. In other words, create a comprehenisve map of the learning journey and be there if and when students need you.
Let's be clear. Use clear language throughout the course, starting with the syllabus. Describe each activity so that students don't have to guess what you mean. Make your expectations regarding their engagement explicit. Make assessment criteria transparent.
Let's be flexible. Even with everyone's best intentions, sometimes life just gets in the way. If anything, the past months have made it clearer. Respect for deadlines is important, but judging each situation on its on merits can yield better results in the long run.
Let's be human. So you don't have the picture-perfect office as your background? Your video is not perfect? Don't waste hours re-recording it. Be yourself, this is what students will appreciate more. Some days are "camera off" and both you and your students should be ok with it.
Let's trust our students. Instead of complaining that they don't engage, why don't we challenge them (and ourselves) with more interesting tasks? Instead of worrying they are cheating, why don't we try to design unGoogleable assignments?
Let's be prepared to learn *with* our students. Acknowledge learning is always a two-way process. Be open to saying you don't know but you will look for an answer. Let's use the online environment to connect rather than isolate. Let's show we care!
If you want to read more about all the points above and more, I warmly invite you to check these resources:
Community building activities: a great (and growing) collection of activity templates (including videos, instructional materials, etc) that can help you create and maintain an online community. Curated by Maha Bali, Mia Zamora and Autumm Caines.
Some ideas on how to humanise your online class from Michelle Pacansky-Brock.
Great reflections from Niya Bond on Pedagogies of Online Welcome; while written just before Covid-19, they really got a whole new meaning in the past months.
Want to know what is The Single Most Essential Requirement in Designing a Fall Online Course? Read Cathy Davidson’s insightful article.
Pedagogies of care: another rich collection of open resources on how to create a inclusive learning community, from design through teaching and collaboration to assessment.