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Political science professor Rebecca MajorPolitical science professor Rebecca Major values relational learning: an engaged educational practice grounded in teaching through story.

Political science prof maintaining relational learning during pandemic

COVID-19 has changed how we think about teaching, but it remains important to create learning environments that are welcoming for all students.

As someone who values relational learning — an engaged educational practice grounded in teaching through story — political science professor Rebecca Major initially found it particularly difficult to adapt her teaching style to online learning.

She continues to teach synchronously and focuses on creating discussion in her classroom. Although some teaching online value perfection through pre-recorded lectures, Dr. Major values the imperfections in her lectures, believing they make her more approachable to students, allowing her to create an environment that values growth and discussion above memorization and perfection.

She also makes sure to check in with before each class. The pandemic has been an incredibly difficult period, and as result, both students and instructors are feeling overwhelmed, and burnout occurs faster.

By giving students a chance to speak about their own challenges during COVID-19, not only does Major get an idea of how students are struggling and therefore how she can help them succeed, she is also creating a dialogue through which students can release some of that tension, creating a more successful learning environment.

This does not mean that it’s a perfect solution. Often wi-fi doesn’t connect, or there are power issues for Major or her students. As a result, she works to create an environment that is accessible making sure to record her lectures, and on the days when her own wi-fi is not working, create shorter slide-show presentations that summarize that week’s material.

—Bridget Heuvel