The Pedagogy of Kindness Through Faculty Collaboration and Discussion

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Higher education needs to move towards a mentality of kindness in pedagogy and practice. The presenters will discuss how they implemented a process towards that through combination of active faculty course design collaborations and a focused discussion series on the different facets of the Pedagogy of Kindnes.


I have been in the Instructional Technology field for 10 years, focusing online course design and faculty collaboration. I am currently an Instructional Technologist and Designer at the Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning, I received my MA from TC, Columbia University in their Instructional Technology, Media and Design program after focusing on the various macro and micro factors that are essential to successful online course design, as well as a mechanism for collaborative faculty development. This work is essential to my work with collaborators. It was remarkably timely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which this framework was utilized in part as we moved hundreds of faculty online. I am a firm believer that online learning and education must be designed with the modality in mind- one cannot just copy and paste in-person materials into an online frame. We must take into account the limitations and affordances of a modality, and how that works in concert with the human element- prior knowledge, cognitive load and the like. I also believe that for design to be successful-one must be flexible with the mechanisms. For today’s learning to be successful, we must analyze and utilize the most effective learning framework, modality, and methodology. Each circumstance should take into account the goals, prior knowledge, motivation, affordances and limitations of the modality, and learning framework. We must adapt and change as we collaborate.

Extended Abstract

The pandemic shift to emergency remote instruction revealed there was not just a dearth of knowledge about best practices for teaching online, but a far more ingrained problem: a lack of necessary empathy in our courses by themselves. The Pedagogy of Kindness is a paradigm which restructures and reframes course design and teaching as a whole into a more collaborative, emphatic learning process- where accessibility and inclusiveness are woven into the design itself. This reframing towards the Pedagogy of Kindness seeks to build learning experiences that are of higher quality, with better engagement, and inclusive and accessible to all. 

The massive shift online that occurred during the Spring 2020 semester was a major disruption to not just education, but our society as a whole. People lost their livelihoods, family members, and support systems. It became clear that our learning spaces required more empathy and understanding, not less, but the mentality of far too many was focused on “catching cheaters” above all else. Instead of focusing on accomplishing learning goals, assessments were copied directly from the face to face environment, often relying on ineffective, invasive processes. 

This extended beyond an approach to assessment. We were alarmed at the entrenched, unempathetic rhetoric coming from faculty who sought our support. It is important to note that much of this reasoning came from a place of misunderstanding, not malice. Faculty were often unaware of why such non-inclusive design is both harmful and ineffective at accomplishing goals. Some of these alarming requests and ideas faculty shared with us were: 

  • A test that gives 10 seconds to answer each multiple choice question to prevent “googling” an answer.
  • Requiring cameras on at all times, asking permission before going to the bathroom.
  • Requiring students maintain specific posture on cameras at all times. 

Hearing of extremely similar experiences from colleagues in other institutions, we realized this is an endemic and widespread problem. Our office pursued a two pronged approach at changing this paradigm. First, we integrated Pedagogy of Kindness and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) mentality and methodologies in all Online Teaching and Learning training and collaborations. Second, we facilitated a faculty run discussion series aimed at changing the mentality of the campus community as a whole. 

Faculty Collaborations:

As course design and review was an essential aspect of our existing training structure, it gave an easy window into making sure courses were in line with UDL and Pedagogy of Kindness best practices. An important, if not the most important component of these conversations, was backing up all best practices with extensive data and research. We found academics, if nothing else are extremely receptive to data backed arguments. In this way, we made clear that we wholly respected the faculty’s breadth of knowledge in their field, while also making it clear that for that knowledge to come across effectively- it should be in line with pedagogy of kindness and UDL guidelines. 

As an example, if a faculty member was demanding to use remote proctoring invasive solutions for their assessments, our process would be as follows: First, we would identify the ultimate learning goals and objectives for the course. Then, we would analyze if their test accurately and effectively assessed accomplishment of those goals. We would pair every stage with data backed research on the advantages of authentic assessments and endemic (often racist) issues with remote proctoring solutions and a “cameras-on” mentality. At the end of the collaboration, faculty mostly realized why remote proctoring (which our campus does not support), will neither ensure academic integrity nor effectively assess students, and use a more authentic assessment model. 

This process was repeated with great success with hundreds of faculty collaborations across disciplines. While we are very proud of our work on helping faculty achieve inclusive design, we realized that a more encompassing conversation on the “why” of the pedagogy of kindness as a whole was needed.

Faculty Discussion Series: 

The Pedagogy of Kindness: Building a Community of Inquiry Faculty Discussion series was fabricated from the concerns that have come to light due to the shift to distance learning/ remote teaching. The expectations that faculty members had for students in an online environment were similar to that they had for them in person, which proved to be too unrealistic. This garnered a reset for faculty members to evaluate the practices they are putting forth in an online environment. A faculty member who also worked in the Center for Teaching and Learning, noted that this was more than just a pedagogical problem but more of a problem of lack of kindness. Hence, the Pedagogy of Kindness discussion series came to fruition. The topics were tailored to the common issues in this vein that we noted in the faculty population at our institution. The initial events in the discussion series were: 

  • Session 1: Building Classroom Community
  • Session 2: Setting Boundaries in the Classroom
  • Session 3: Alternative Assessments
  • Session 4: Encouraging Mindfulness in the Classroom
  • Session 5: Trauma-Informed Teaching
  • Session 6: Building an International Environment of Collaborative Learning
  • Session 7: Caring in the Classroom

The main objectives of the sessions were to build community in the classroom through creation of learning collectives, establishing classroom boundaries during pandemic remote learning, effective alternative assessment styles for online learning, generation of mindfulness in the classroom such as syllabus transparency, being able to use trauma-informed teaching practices during a time of social reform, collaborative projects with international students and faculty, and creating a caring environment within the classroom.

The process of choosing the faculty presenters was mainly done through reaching out to the chairpeople of different departments on campus, asking them if any faculty members in their department had demonstrated incredible resonance with their students through the transition to distance learning. The panel discussions were excellent ways to demonstrate faculty within and across different disciplines (course design, such as large-classes, asynchronous, and synchronous) implemented the relevant Pedagogy of Kindness topic. 

We found a discussion series was very effective for this series, as it provided experienced faculty with a platform and resources to share their experiences, while engaging directly with their peers. Our aim was to encourage organic and fluid discourse with the panelist(s) and the attendees. This allowed faculty members to be comfortable sharing their experiences while getting guidance and context for the related pedagogy of kindness topics.

Efficacy of faculty collaborations and the series as a whole was gauged on the following metrics: First, the collaborations were measured against overall course design and how well they aligned with UDL and Pedagogy of Kindness guidelines. That was measured against faculty survey feedback and experience with the collaborative process and workshop as a whole. This information was used to adapt and improve on collaborations measures.

Series impact will be measured by attendee feedback surveys, follow up requests, and longitudinal analysis of attendees implementation of topics through future collaborations. As the series is currently ongoing, we don’t have significant data yet, however we plan on presenting our ultimate findings.


We plan on expanding on topics that garnered the most interest during the series as well as offering related hands-on workshops on how these concepts are applied through other facets of teaching. One requested topic so far has been how to implement these essential pedagogies with a specific lens towards technology and online learning. 


Level of Participation:

This is a highly participatory session. At key intervals (defining the challenges that faculty bring and what strategies were used in other institutions), the presenters will poll the audience for how they handled similar scenarios and challenges. A large chunk of the session will also be spent in scaffolded engagement breakout rooms. Essentially, after presenting the problem at large audience members will have the option of moving into a breakout room guided by a presenter focused on one following topics: 

  • Changing faculty perspectives on the Pedagogy of Kindness
  • Faculty perspective on the Pedagogy of Kindness
  • Student perspective on the Pedagogy of Kindness

During the breakout rooms participants can choose to engage: 

  • Directly over Zoom
  • By sharing resources and ideas in a shared collaborative resource page.
  • On Twitter with the designated hashtag: # (removed here for document anonymity, if accepted it would be replaced with the full hashtag).

Session Goals: 

Audience members who attend this session will emerge with a clear understanding of what the pedagogy of kindness is, how it applies to higher education, and why it is so important. They will have solid strategies on how to work with colleagues and faculty at their institutions on integrating the pedagogy of kindness strategies and methodologies into their courses. They will also have a full framework of launching a similar series at their institutions.