Online Teaching & Learning / Face to face teaching whilst wearing a mask

Wearing a mask can raise challenges when making connections & engaging with classes during face to face teaching. We have some recommendations below that can help you with this issue.

Face to face engagement. How do I engage students whilst wearing a mask?
Emotional and social cues.

When communicating only roughly 7% of the information is portrayed through verbal communication. Body language and vocal tone (or non-verbal communication) makes up the other 93%.  It is no surprise that educators are finding it challenging to gauge how students are doing in class.

Body language interpretation can be subjective and could potentially be misread.  It can be useful to ask questions and gauge understanding to make sure everyone is ready to move on. Simply vocalising this to the class can help staff gauge students reactions.

It is easy to replace a vague question like ‘Does everyone understand?’, with something more targeted such as ‘Should we stay on this topic longer to clarify anything, or shall we move on to the next?’


To support communication and intention with your students, it is important to use visual/written clues to develop students understanding.

Placing instructions, with short examples on the screen of your expectations, can help communicate your task more clearly.  Take a moment to reflect on your presentation material, in light of today’s teaching environment; are there any changes that you could make to your slide deck to help emphasise key points or clarify tasks?

To support the visual cues, we must also consider that whilst wearing masks, students and staff need to communicate more clearly. Subtle cues might be needed to remind students that masks can muffle voices therefore louder volume and better pronunciation maybe needed.

Creating a connection.

To help create a connection with students, from a safe distance, you can use in person voting to get a ‘temperature check’ of the understanding in the room. I.e. asking a question and giving four answers.

The students can either write A,B,C,D on a piece of paper and only show the right answer. This can be held up when a question is asked. Otherwise, the same can be done by holding 1,2,3 or 4 fingers in the air to answer a question.

Discussion points are crucial to help students not only make a connection with you, but with the rest of the cohort as well. One way to make this more physical, is to ask the students to discuss an idea together.

Write the answer on a post-it note and stick it on the board at the front. (Please make sure to follow your Universities sanitation guidance).

Remember when asking questions, especially open questions, we would recommend leaving longer gaps in-between questioning to allow students thinking time and be aware than some students may feel self-conscious.

Image text [Gathering feedback]

Invite student feedback – Provide easy routes for student feedback, an anonymised Poll Everywhere (or similar software) QnA poll might help. A constant feedback loop will help you respond to your students’ needs. The Digital Education team can help you with this.

Share your progress with colleagues; modules can be delivered by multiple staff – sharing what works and what doesn’t with your colleagues can help the students have a more consistent experience for your module.