What is Pedagogical Wellness?
Pedagogical wellness is the art and science of integrating evidence-based wellness strategies into the teaching and learning environment to support the health and well-being of faculty and students. Resuming normal activity after the COVID-19 pandemic, we suggest a “flexibility with guardrails” approach, which helps give some level of autonomy for students, but within boundaries. These approaches will help decrease your workload and allow you to spend your time getting to learn more about your students and their learning process. The goal is to strike a balance between student and instructor wellness.
Student Pedagogical Wellness
- Add a welcome letter to your syllabus to introduce yourself and that you care for your students.
- Transparency: Tell your students what type of pedagogical approach you are taking whether it be inclusive, trauma-informed, and/or contemplative pedagogy.
- Send out the syllabus prior to the first day.
- Make sure it has an inviting tone.
- Add a visual pattern of assignments of what is due each week.
Assessment and Grading style
- Rethink high-stakes exams. Include both formative and summative assessments.
- Consider flexible weighting strategies
- Specifications grading can alleviate stress for instructors and students.
- Consider revise and resubmit options.
- Assess course workload. Remember that students have competing demands like other courses, work, and lives beyond the classroom.
- Give students choices for projects and/or submission format.
- Make sure assignments allow for reflection and connection to life, other students, and the world.
- Allow students a soft deadline and a hard deadline to give some space for flexibility.
- Consider project-based learning.
Class Environment/ Participation
- Ice breakers and brain breaks: mindfulness activities, stretch breaks, dance breaks, class outdoors.
- Consider not having an attendance policy or at least some flexibility (for example: allow 2 missed classes)
- Give content/trigger warnings when teaching about sensitive topics like violence, sexual assault, racism, or traumatic events.
- Give alternatives or an opt out option.
- Have multiple forms of participation and integrate digital technology in the classroom.
- Use reflections, mindfulness activities, and gratitude journals to allow students to deepen their appreciation of class content.
- Use either structured or unstructured brain breaks every 30 minutes to get students to refocus their attention.
- Encourage self-care such as eating, sleeping, exercising.
Communication with students
- Co-construct class norms/ agreements at the beginning of the quarter.
- Check-in with your students about their mental well-being at the start of each class or have a process for collecting frequent feedback (e.g. using reflections, Canvas discussion board, or midterm feedback).
- Remind students of your availability to discuss topics during office hours.
- Talk about student resources on campus including the:
Instructor Pedagogical Wellness
- Set manageable grading deadlines for yourself.
- Use grading strategies (e.g., setting a timer, peer reviews, contract grading) that help you keep track of your time and workload.
- Incorporate assignments that require less grading time. Give options for assignments that may take less grading time (e.g., infographics, videos, modeling vs. long paper submissions).
- Break up large project assignments in the short, weekly assignments to allow students to gauge their progress and allow you to avoid long hours grading toward the end of the quarter
- Use technology that you are comfortable with while seeking to expand your capacity as well over time.
- Use support resources like DTEI’s consultation services to help with designing and implementing your course.
- If you build in wellness exercises or activities, participate in the exercises or activities alongside students to normalize well-being in the classroom.
- Allow students to drop 1 or 2 assignments/quizzes “no questions asked.” This saves time and energy negotiating over emails.
- Avoid attendance policies or build in attendance flexibility (e.g., 2-3 free sick days). Avoid asking for proof as this increases the burden on you as the instructor to verify.
- Structure assignment deadlines either with a soft/hard deadline or allow a grace period. (e.g., set deadline at 10 pm, but allow additional 24 hours in case anything arises) to avoid student extension requests
- Set email boundaries (e.g., 24 hours to respond and longer on weekends)
- Use the syllabus to communicate with your students about expectations, deadlines, assignments, and communicate how to avoid needing to discuss individually with your students you plan to communicate with your students.
- Including assignment expectations in multiple places may also help to decrease confusion about assignments.
- Consider hosting group office hours instead of one-on-one office hours.
- Faculty are human too! Communicate that illness, family issues, disabilities affect us as well sometimes.
- Find your support hub of peer instructors who may be experiencing similar things in terms of teaching and/or research responsibilities.
- Connect with your teaching community via existing programs like Active Learning Institute community, Digital Learning Institute community, Pedagogical Fellows Program, Coffee Meets Teaching.
- Find out what kind of support your department can offer if you need to be on leave for any reason.
- Utilize professional support such as DTEI consultations to assist with building your course and/or troubleshoot any issues throughout the quarter.
Trauma-Informed Pedagogy Workshop
Trauma can impact students’ ability to learn in the classroom but can also impact instructors’ well-being and effectiveness in the teaching and learning environment. Researchers have especially noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected faculty and students from underrepresented backgrounds in higher education. The Trauma-Informed Pedagogy workshop is catered to faculty and graduate students who are interested in learning about how to support students who have experienced significant trauma in their lives, while also taking care of oneself. In this workshop, participants will learn the foundations of an Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Pedagogical Framework and engage in collaborative conversations about opportunities and challenges of applying these strategies to their own classroom practices.
Find the workshop and registration information here.
Pedagogical Wellness Research
Given the past few years, we know you have faced enormous challenges in terms of balancing life, work, and teaching. Now that we are all resuming back to our “normal activities,” we want to understand how to better support your wellness in the teaching and learning space. How do you personally define pedagogical wellness? What are some strategies you’ve implemented and how have they impacted you as the instructor and your students? What areas of teaching/learning support do you need? Faculty, lecturers, graduate students, and postdocs are invited to participate in Pedagogical Wellness interviews. Interviews will take place on Zoom and will be approximately 30-60 minutes. Click on this link to sign up for the PW interviews.
Do you have questions, an idea for collaboration, or want to make some wellness changes to your course? Contact Theresa Duong, Ph.D., our Pedagogical Wellness Specialist.
Schedule a meeting/consultation by emailing Theresa Duong at firstname.lastname@example.org.