Week 10 – Empathy and Engagement in Teaching and Learning

By August 19, 2020April 5th, 2024Smeal Academy Newsletter

Smeal Academy: Fall 2020 Readiness – Week 10

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique challenges in teaching during this time. Throughout the semester, we will be sending emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.

This week we share resources and strategies that will help promote empathy and engagement. Research shows that we must start with our own self-awareness to be empathetic and engage meaningfully with those around us (Newman, 2018).

It is important to affirm that you are also impacted by the present circumstances. Before a class session begins or before engaging in an activity, reflect on your own emotional state and expectations: Here are some questions you may ask yourself at the beginning of a day:

What are my present circumstances? How might they impact/inform my approach to teaching and my expectations of learners today?
What do I know about my students’ experiences and present circumstances in my class? How might this knowledge impact/inform my approach to teaching?
Where am I in my personal tolerance level right now?

Pausing and reflecting for a short time every day can go a long way toward helping you engage and empathize with your students.

Consider Using a Student Poll or Survey to Gauge Student Needs and Circumstances

It is also helpful to provide a way for students to communicate their needs and circumstances, seeing this is such an unprecedented semester. Consider using Zoom polling or Canvas surveys to determine whether you have any students with extenuating circumstances that might affect their learning. You can even add points to a graded survey and use it as part of the student participation grade. Here’s an example Canvas student well-being survey for your reference.

Self-paced Student Tutorials

The following iStudy online learning tutorials for essential college skills were designed to help students identify their strengths and growing edges in the following areas:

Nemwan, K. (2018, April 11). Can self-awareness help you be more empathetic? Greater Good Magazine.

Strickland, M. & Tatusko, A. (2020, August 7). Facilitating learning when students are under stress [Webinar]. Penn State University.

Current News

  • Submit Your Questions About Return to Classroom and Campus
    Faculty with questions can log on at https://tinyurl.com/On-Campus-Questions and submit their inquiries, which will be answered with available information and published as part of a regular email update for all faculty. Questions may be submitted anonymously, or submitters may wish to include their name and department or college.
  • GPC Classroom Technology and Zoom Practice Sessions
    The GPC team has unlocked their classrooms and are working diligently to get cameras for Zoom installed.  Below is some information regarding scheduling time with a technician to walk through the classroom technologies.  You are also welcome to stop on campus and check out classroom(s) on your own whenever you like.  You may still need to use your ID card to access the building, but the GPC rooms are all open 24/7.  Smeal has purchased personal lapel microphones that will be distributed to faculty next week along with their University-issued PPE items. These personal microphones may be plugged into the transmitters found in the podiums in all GPC rooms so that you don’t have to share the microphones already in the rooms.If you are teaching in a centrally-supported General Purpose Classroom (GPC) room:You can email: techclass@psu.edu to request a time slot in your GPC room.“Practice Using Zoom” is offered from TLT and Schreyer InstituteKeep checking https://keepteaching.psu.edu often for new information.

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Engaging Students Through Assessment: (A session designed as a collaboration between TLT and eLDIG)
     How can you engage your students through online assessments (both formative and summative)? This session covers the changes you can make to your assessments to take advantage of the online environment. Topics include setting expectations for online assessments, managing student stress levels, determining the most effective delivery method in your teaching context, adapting both formative and summative assessments from in-person to online formats, and alternatives to online exams. Join us Wednesday, August 19 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Engaging Students Synchronously: (A session designed as a collaboration between TLT and eLDIG)
    Are you interested in improving student engagement in your synchronous online classes? This session covers best practices when engaging students in synchronous online settings. Topics include how to help students engage with the content, you, and their fellow students, as well as how to best adapt in-class activities to the synchronous online environment. This content applies to both blended and online courses. Join us Thursday, August 27 from 11 am to 12:15 p.m. via Zoom.

NOTE:  Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG  Website.

Tips of the Week


Helpful Websites


Check out the eLDIG website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: course-support@smeal.psu.edu or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.