Teaching with Masks

The Fall 2021 transition to in-person instruction presents both the joys of being in community with colleagues and students and the challenges of the continued pandemic. On August 2, 2021, Yale University announced that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks in indoor campus spaces, which includes classrooms.  The administration offered further details to this guidance and will continue to update this webpage. Below are considerations and further resources to support teaching and learning while wearing masks.This is a new situation for teaching and learning at Yale, and we welcome instructors to share their questions, ideas and strategies with us at faculty.teaching@yale.edu

Community and Well-being

  • Build in time and space to get to know students and form a community.

    • Review the student “photo roster” on Canvas to practice identifying student faces with names and/or consider using name tents or name tags.

    • Consider multiple ways to get to know students, such as  through a pre or early course survey or icebreaker on the first day of class.

    • Identify alternative ways for students to “see” each other and you, such as sharing pictures of yourselves without masks,  hosting virtual office hours, or posting introductory videos on Canvas. 

    • Use polling (such as PollEverywhere or index cards) to ask students how they’re doing or feeling today.

  • Consider incorporating small group activities for community building and/or active learning into your course. Small group activities could also be a part of out-of-class assignments and conducted virtually on Zoom or in socially distanced contexts. 

  • Encourage your students to take mask breaks before and after class, such as breathing exercises.


Audibility and Logistical Considerations

  • Look your classroom up on Classrooms at Yale or visit your classroom to understand the set up. Explore the available technology and follow up with AV support as needed.  

  • Before classes begin, practice speaking in your mask to ensure it is comfortable and well-fitting for the duration of a class session.

    • Focus on enunciation rather than simply speaking louder.

    • You may wish to think about the frequency of your talking to ensure you have regular breaks  to avoid voice strain.

    • Be sure to face students when speaking with them.

    • When a student poses a question, repeat it to ensure the whole class has heard it.

  • Consider how teaching and learning in masks impacts accessibility. Keep in mind that certain masks, including transparent ones, may have a stronger impact on audibility

    • Reflect on your teaching through the lens of accessibility to inform how you support the students in your class.

    • Students for whom masking could create accessibility barriers might be working with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) for reasonable accommodations. These accommodations could include live transcripts, CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services, ASL interpreters, or note-taking services. Should you have a student with an accommodation like this, you will be notified by the student via an Accommodation Letter from SAS.

  • Have a candid conversation with your students about the challenges of masks in terms of audibility, comprehension, and connecting as a class. Discuss how to meet these challenges and how you as a group will know and understand if your approaches are working. 

  • Record your lectures to increase accessibility and allow students to review course content.


Communication and Engagement

  • Incorporate ways of checking in with students’ engagement and understanding.

    • Consider using PollEverywhere as part of gauging student comprehension and engagement, especially for larger classes, as a visual/text-based option.

  • Explicitly share with students how they should let you know if they are having difficulty hearing you or their fellow students.

  • Consider additional ways for students to participate beyond the large class setting: 

    • Ask students to discuss in pairs in addition to whole group conversation.

    • Ask students to write individual responses to discussion questions on notecards to be collected and then discussed.