Resilient Pedagogy

“…The ability to facilitate learning experiences that are designed to be adaptable to fluctuating conditions and disruptions.” Resilient teaching is an approach that “take[s] into account how a dynamic learning context may require new forms of interactions between teachers, students, content, and tools.” Those who practice RP have the capacity to rethink the design of learning experiences based on a nuanced understanding of context (Quintana & Devaney, 2020).

Resilient teaching forces instructors to examine student engagement carefully and intentionally and develop a student-centered mindset. It also helps instructors design a dynamic course once, so that they’re using their time and efforts efficiently and making their courses as resistant to disruption as possible.

Three Design Principles of RP 


Designing for Extensibility (vacuum metaphor) means that a course is designed in such a way that it has a clearly defined purpose and essential, unaltered learning goals, and yet the basic essence of the course content can be extended with new capabilities and functionality as needed. This may involve the introduction of new tools or a change in format, moving fluidly from synchronous to asynchronous modalities, etc.

Extensibility Example: Transforming the resources and outlines usually used to deliver an in-person lecture into appropriately bite-sized chunks of pre-recorded videos. These videos might be used in a hybrid combination with in-person lecturing, or perhaps they take the place of the lecture completely to create an asynchronous online learning opportunity.

Extensibility Reflection Questions

  • What is the essential learning objective(s) of the course(s)?
  • What is “non-negotiable” in terms of course content, and what can flex if needed?
  • How might you introduce a ‘flipped classroom’ model and increase self-directed learning experiences for students?
  • What colleagues might you reach out to for collaboration and creativity with course design, especially as it relates to your discipline?
  • Flexibility

    Designing for Flexibility (tailor & suit metaphor) means that a course is designed to respond to the individual needs of learners within a changing learning environment. In a nod to the Universal Design for Learning framework, designing for flexibility means that a course is structured to meet a variety of student needs and learning styles, even before knowing specific individuals in a given class. Flexibility will require a learner-centered approach with multiple means of engagement/expression and considerations for student needs which may arise within variable class sizes and modalities. A course designed for flexibility will also allow instructor expectations and assessments to flex in response to these needs. 

    Flexibility Example: Including additional learning activities for students who need to review or learn concepts that they were already expected to understand. These activities would not be required for students who already demonstrate proficiency. 

    Flexibility Reflection Questions 

  • How will you integrate extra considerations for students’ needs for social presence and opportunities for social-emotional support, especially if teaching in the midst of a crisis?•
  • How might you conceive of changing due dates, assignment parameters, and overall course length if the need arises? 
  • What roll will attendance play in course participation? 
  • Do you know how to leverage support staff (i.e. librarians, academic advisors, financial services staff, tech support, etc.) and their expertise to better equip you and your students? 
  • Redundancy

    Designing for Redundancy, simply put, means having backup plans in place (generator metaphor). Designing for redundancy asks instructors to analyze a course design for possible vulnerabilities. For example, how will students accustomed to synchronous virtual meetings be given the opportunity to engage in course activities if their internet access becomes unpredictable? In this design approach, instructors look for alternative ways of accomplishing goals with the hope of eliminating single points of failure. This is, of course, incredibly important when learning is situated in a time of crisis or emergency. 

    Redundancy Example: Making sure synchronous class sessions held online are recorded so that students with unpredictable internet access or who are otherwise unable to attend a synchronous course may still participate in the course activities at a later date. 

    Redundancy Reflection Questions

  • Do you know how you would approach teaching a course if students had unreliable internet access?
  • How will you communicate with students? Can you communicate through multiple mediums to ensure that you’ll reach them?
  • What roll will attendance play in course participation?
  • Is student data and LMS activity backed up off-campus or in cloud-based storage?
  • Additional Questions
    • Do you have access to Canvas, Panopto, and any other needed software or tools? Are you comfortable using the resources available to you? If not, do you know where to go and who to ask? 
    • Are there new skills you need to learn (e.g. pre-recording lectures, or hosting class sessions in Teams or on Zoom) in order to make this plan a reality?   
    • Are you having trouble deciding what the non-negotiables are in your course? Consider writing down your course objective and assessing each learning activity against the basic requirements of that objective. 


    • Quintana, R. (2020). Resilient teaching through times of crisis and change [MOOC]. Coursera. 
    • Quintana, R., & DeVaney, J. (2020, May 27). Laying the foundation for a resilient teaching community. Inside Higher Ed. 
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    About the Author

    Katie Clum

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