Applied Environmental Teaching using Caring Pedagogy is Essential in Educational Disruptions


  • Byung-Yeol Park Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  • Rebecca Campbell-Montalvo Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  • Todd Campbell Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  • Hannah Cooke Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  • Oxana Sidorova El Instituto, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  • Chester Arnold Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  • Maria Chrysochoou
  • Peter Diplock Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA


applied STEM education, caring pedagogy, environmental education, pandemic, remote or virtual schooling, service-learning


Applied pedagogy, and specifically service learning, bridges the university educational experience with hands-on training. Such pedagogies in STEM are nuanced in unique ways in comparison to more classroom-based STEM learning and applied teaching outside of STEM contexts. As STEM service learning may be especially vulnerable during system shocks, we advance work on such pedagogy by investigating how a certain type of pedagogy, specifically caring pedagogy, may be particularly useful during social disruption (i.e., COVID-19) in applied STEM learning. The main purpose of this study is to examine how pandemic-related disruptions impacted teaching and learning in a service-learning STEM program known as the Environment Corps. We thematically analyzed longitudinal data from multiple rounds of interviews with seven instructors, one-time interviews with thirteen undergraduates, and eight instructor meetings occurring from late 2019 to early 2021. Similar to findings in related work, teaching and learning obstacles from the pandemic were personal, interpersonal, and logistical. After instructors realized they needed to implement changes, some obstacles were ameliorated through caring pedagogy practices outside of in-person interaction. Yet, even as disruptions lessened, students and faculty still experienced impacts from the pandemic. We offer insight into how applied STEM courses can be adjusted with an eye toward caring pedagogy-informed practices to minimize negative effects from system shocks. This contributes to the literature on disaster and COVID-19-related challenges, caring pedagogy in virtual spaces in teaching circumstances, and environmental education.


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