When the pandemic hit, Fiona Rawle – a professor of biology and the associate dean, undergraduate at the University of Toronto Mississauga – was quick to analyze the challenges of remote teaching and learning and determine that a new approach was needed.
“Students, faculty, staff, and teaching assistants are all under more stress than usual,” Rawle says. “If ever there was a time for a pedagogy of kindness, it’s now.”
Rawle designed and co-led a series of workshops to help faculty members better connect with students and provide them with the necessary support. The goal is to create “a culture of communication, flexibility, understanding and collaboration,” she says.
“We need to foster dialogue and learn about the student experience. We need to purposefully bridge the professor-student divide.”
In episode 12 of The New Normal podcast with Maydianne Andrade, guest host Rawle speaks with undergraduate students Nicole Caetano and Faarea Hussain about the challenges they’re facing during the pandemic. She also speaks with Ann Gagné, an educational developer at the Robert Gillespie Academic Skill Centre at U of T Mississauga.
“I believe that a pedagogy of kindness is so important right now because we, of course, are living and working through rather traumatic times,” says Gagné. “Once we know this, then we can move more towards a trauma-informed approach that has kindness, that has safety and that really builds a relationship of trust between the learner and the instructor, but also a relationship of trust between the students themselves.
In the end, Rawle says, kindness helps to foster connection.
“We know that the more connected our students feel, then the better they learn. We want students to know that they are more than a number.”
The New Normal is created in collaboration with a University of Toronto Communications team led by Lisa Lightbourn. You can listen to the podcast on Spotify or listen on SoundCloud. You can also find it on Apple or listen on Google.