Who Cares? Student-Instructor Relationalities in Remote Learning Through an Ethic of Care Pedagogy

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipientLeanne Roderick, Faculty of the Environment

Project team: Research assistant, TBD

Timeframe: September 2021 to August 2022

Funding: $5,000

Course addressed: GEOG 100 - Our World: Introducing Human Geography

Description: A feminist ethic of care begins with the premise that humans are relational and responsive, and thrive in conditions of connectedness and interdependence (Gilligan, 1993). This investigation seeks to understand the impacts of delivering an online course using an ethic of care as a pedagogical approach. This framework will inform instructor-student communications, practices, and course policies. Five prominent ethical qualities of care have been identified: attentiveness, responsibility, competence, responsiveness, and solidarity (Tronto, 2013). This project seeks to uncover (a) how these five qualities can most effectively inform remote and/or online teaching practices, and (b) if a pedagogical approach informed by an ethic of care in remote learning environments has a positive impact on student learning (i.e., engagement, motivation, meaning). Data collected thus far by SFU through the Student Online Learning Experience (SOLE) survey from Summer 2020 and Spring 2021 will be reviewed, and a new survey that evaluates students’ experience of a model of care in remote learning environments, and its impact on student motivation and meaning, will be created. Using key literature on an ethic of care, the researcher will design a set of course policies, communications, and practices to implement in a large undergraduate online course. Student focus group interviews and anonymous course surveys will measure the impact of these course practices, communications, and policies. Research findings will be shared with the SFU teaching and learning community.


  • Tronto, Joan C. (2013). Caring Democracy. NYU Press.
  • Gilligan, C. (1993). In A Different Voice. Harvard University Press.

Questions addressed:

  • Have students experienced elements of an ethic of care in remote learning at SFU?
  • How has an ethic of care pedagogy informed the process of course design and delivery, and what is the impact on student motivation?
  • How is perception of an ethic of care in remote teaching, and its impact on student motivation and meaning, best evaluated?
  • What is the relationship between student perceptions of care and active engagement in the course
  • Did the course design elements connected with an ethic of care have an impact on student motivation and meaning?
  • How can research findings be effectively communicated and implemented by other instructors?

Knowledge sharing: I will seek to partner with SFU’s CEE to host workshops leading up to the Fall 2022 term, to assist instructors that are planning for remote courses. Ideally, key findings can also be shared as a part of CEE’s annual course Rethinking Course Design workshop, which usually takes place between the Spring and Summer terms, in 2023.