Adjusting to New Teaching and Learning Circumstances—Again

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

For nearly all students, the past 18 months has seen a significant disruption in the way you were taught, engaged with your courses and classmates, and learned and studied. These changes posed challenges and in some cases afforded benefits and opportunities. You had to adjust and in so doing you surely learned something about learning, but you also learned about adjusting to new teaching-learning circumstances. Hard won in many cases, this knowledge is extremely valuable as you transition yet again this fall semester.

As we embark upon yet another transition to a new way of teaching and learning from instruction, one with more in-person instruction, opportunities to work with classmates inside and outside courses, and a return to many previous ways of doing things on campus, it’s useful to pause and reflect upon what we learned and to anticipate what new challenges (and opportunities) await. With this knowledge you will be better prepared to engage your courses more purposefully and strategically  this semester. 

Reflecting: Give yourself 10-15 minutes to think back over recent semesters. Consider a variety of disciplines/subjects and course designs. Which were you able to learn from effectively—and why? Which ones were less effective—and why? What did you figure out about how to approach these courses? What have you learned about learning and adjusting do you want to carry forward into this term? Try to distill these insights in writing, as guidance for yourself. For issues that you feel remain unresolved, see if you can phrase them as a question to be explored (e.g. “How might I stay engaged with and get more out of recorded lectures?”).

Anticipating: Give yourself a similar amount of time to look ahead to new rhythms and patterns of learning from instruction. If possible, look at the syllabi of courses you plan to take. What are their features—how are they designed? There is considerable variety in the ways courses are organized, the ways students are expected to learn, and the kind of assignments and assessments included. What will be new or unfamiliar? What might be particularly demanding about your set of courses? Is there anything you think you’ll need to re-acclimate to? 

Strategizing: Strategizing is mostly a matter of looking ahead to your goals and charting a pathway to achieve them. So, start by identifying course-specific goals: What do you want to get out of each of your courses in terms of knowledge, skills, and perspectives--grades, too? If you generated questions when reflecting about HOW to address an issue you encountered in the past, see if you can begin to answer them yourself to some extent. McGraw Academic Life & Learning Consultants are trained to work with students on exactly these questions (among others), so they can build on what you start. But, you have also developed knowledge in this realm. Ask yourself what worked for you in the past, pre-pandemic? And look into what resources are available on campus that you could utilize. In addition to workshops, tutoring, course-specific study groups and jumpstarts, McGraw has some materials that can help you adjust to Princeton demands. Learn how other students adapted to challenges, advice on how to meet academic demands, and cultivating mindsets for yet another adjustment.


The current group of Princeton students has experienced more changes in teaching and learning than probably any group in the university’s history. While challenging—extremely so sometimes—it’s also been a source of learning and insights that you can put to use this fall term.