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Psychological safety in virtual learning spaces

Date:  Saturday 28 August 
Time:  1300-1600


  • Elizabeth Kachur
  • Lisa Altshuler
  • Chaoyan Dong
  • Jenny/Lee Yuan Wong
  • Nobutaro Ban


Summary of Theme and Why it is important: Covid-19 forced many educational programs to go virtual.  Thus many educators struggled to transform their teaching and assessment ventures in a hurry.  While the first step may have been to address technology and infrastructure concerns, one must not forget psychological safety which is critical for effective teaching and learning.  Whether it is a lecture, a small group discussion, a clinical rotation or an OSCE, an appropriate level of psychological safety is necessary for teachers, learners and anyone else who is involved in the process (e.g., simulated patients).  Optimal performance of everyone depends on it!

In this PCW we will explore sources of psychological threats as they occur in different remote educational settings.  A teacher may be concerned about the blurring of their professional identity due to an uncontrollable home environment.  Learners may feel hesitant to participate in discussions because of decreased ability to read the reactions of others.  Patients may have privacy concerns due to uncertainties about who is listening and looking. 

Regardless of platforms, virtual encounters are complex.  Concerns about how we are “present” (e.g., video, avatar, black screen) and how we can and should interact with each other occur in everyone.

Online learning has been studied for a while.  Now the difference is that it “replaces” in-person programs and is practiced by many more individuals for whom this is not their first choice.  This PCW will provide opportunities to deepen understanding about various mechanisms that contribute to psychological safety in online educational settings.  Participants will be asked to share their experiences and explore strategies that can help enhance psychological safety for all involved in online instructions.  Pictures and videos depicting virtual interactions will facilitate discussions.

What participants will gain:
1. Describe the importance of psychological safety in educational interactions
2. Identify various threats to the psychological safety of faculty, learners and others involved in virtual instructional settings
3. Explain the ripple effect that occurs when one person feels unsafe
4. List strategies to enhance psychological safety in various virtual training formats

Who should participate: Individuals involved in remote teaching/learning

Level: All

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