American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
May/June 2020

Three Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in the Time of COVID-19 (Teaching and Learning in Sociology)

Sarah L. Hoiland, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College - CUNY
Melinda Messineo, Ball State University
Laurie Jordan Linhart, Des Moines Area Community College

“Teachable Moment”

Sarah L. Hoiland, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College - CUNY

Prior to CUNY’s move to online instruction, my student, Elena, was working full-time, doing overnight shifts in a phlebotomy lab, and taking a full load of classes, including my location-specific liberal arts capstone course, “Bronx Beautiful.” Like many CUNY students, Elena works to support her family. She also volunteers at CUNY’s Citizenship Now! assisting applicants with translation. Now Elena works 16-20 hours a day as an essential worker at the geographic center of the global pandemic and communicates with me via hurriedly written emails on her phone from the hospital. She does not have internet at home. My role has become much more complex. Listener. Advocate. Career Counselor. Cheerleader. Instructional Designer. Instructor. Researcher. Writer. 

Elena’s story is not unique and stories like hers compel us to look closely at the structural inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 within higher education and to respond not with a shoulder shrug or deep sigh or worse, pity, but with compassion. 

Minimal funding, majority contingent faculty, and low salaries even for full-time faculty, characterize institutions like mine, yet accreditors and scholarly peers may use the same criteria when evaluating our graduation rates, retention, and faculty productivity as they do with far better resourced institutions. We are seen as second-class, even within our discipline. These stark inequalities, laid bare during this pandemic, call for a paradigm shift and new questions such as “How do students like Elena do it?” followed closely by “How can we support Hispanic and Minority Serving Institution community colleges who serve essential workers and those most affected by COVID-19?” and finally, “What can we learn about teaching and learning from our colleagues at community colleges?”


Melinda Messineo, Ball State University

Our section’s motto has long been: “If you teach, you belong.” Even with this motto, there has been separation between our thoughts regarding teaching “face to face” and teaching “online.” For some, teaching online has been a necessity, for some a choice, and for others an enigma, an unknown modality never explored. Some have not, until recently, had the opportunity or need to teach online, but many express concern about the quality of online education. Can online teaching be as effective as face to face? In what ways does online teaching perpetuate inequality for students and faculty? Does teaching online ultimately increase or decrease inequality? With the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, we have all been thrust into this digital environment and these questions have taken on new intensity. Does student success this semester represent mastery of learning objectives? Mastery of technology? Access to resources? Privileged preparation and support? These are always the questions we face as teachers, but we are now that much more aware of how our pedagogical choices intensify or reduce inequality. As we face the coming semesters, consider some ASA resources that may help answer these questions, and reduce the potential inequality that this unprecedented event has introduced to our shared mission (see

“Emotion Work”

Laurie Jordan Linhart, Des Moines Area Community College

Symbolic interactionists study the performance and management of emotions; this framework is useful in understanding teaching and learning in the time of COVID-19. Arlie Hochschild (1979) claims that jobs within the service industry typically require their employees to engage in some degree of emotion work. College professors and students also engage in emotion work. 

As I consider the emotional management we are performing at this COVID-19 moment, three things come to mind. First, our emotion work normally involves direct interactions. However, we have been abruptly thrust into computer-mediated communication. This creates an additional layer of complication and, in some cases, confusion. Second, not only are we managing our work emotions, but we are also managing our home emotions. Learning how (and where) to work from home while home schooling our own children, as well as developing a new work life balance, is challenging. Third, we are acutely aware of our students’ emotions and are assisting them in managing their emotions. Not being able to see them regularly makes this task especially tricky, but all the more necessary.  

About a month ago I came across a Facebook group titled “Pandemic Pedagogy: A group for academics in higher ed dealing with the move to online learning.” I encourage you to join and notice the performance and management of emotions being narrated by fellow colleagues.