How to Debrief Students for Online Education

Debriefing after a pandemic is important as students move into another process of adjustment such as distance learning. As the teacher meets his or her class in the first few days, a simple remote psychological first aid (PFA) can be administered– as mandated by the Department of Education. The class can reflect on their immediate experiences, discuss (or share) opportunities, and build a common understanding to further ensure that online education will be successful. Creating a common understanding means clarifying objectives, ethical behavior and the responsibilities expected of the students online.

The following text is the transcript of a Youtube video of the above title. Click on this link.

How do we debrief students for online education the Ignatian Way?

Many students, including teachers like myself, have been accustomed to a face-to-face education. However the pandemic has pushed us to go totally online until a vaccine has been discovered. It won’t be easy. Join me, as I share how we have administered a remote psychological first aid faithful to our way of teaching at the first few days of online classes.


The Coronavirus pandemic had impacted many of our lives, including the lives of our students. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and can cause very strong emotions in all of us, including adults and the  young. Social and physical distancing can make us feel isolated and lonely, especially those who were stranded in their dormitories or boarding houses, away from their primary support systems like their family and friends. These factors, among others, increase the stress in an infectious disease outbreak. 

The impact of the pandemic can include: fear and worry about our health and the health of our loved ones, our financial situation, losing our jobs and the support services we rely on like hospitals. Notice how we would rather avoid hospitals where Covid patients are confined. It can affect our sleep and eating patterns, or even our concentration. It can worsen our mental health conditions, and even the increase use of addictive substances like alcohol.

Online education can also be stressful to many of our young because of impactful alterations in a learner’s lifestyle. Away from their classmates, learning as a social event (especially for Filipinos) will take a backseat. So it is imperative to ensure that we can provide preventive interventions from possible post-traumatic stress. I think we have to give some form of remote psychological first aid (PFA), previously known as debriefing before they plunge into the new normal of studying online. 

The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm

Aside from it being a requisite of the Department of Education, a simple debriefing can be done in class. Here are the steps that can help ensure easy facilitation using the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm.

Begin with context. Allow students to introduce themselves, if this has not been done at the first day of online school. However, we can use a creative way of introducing each other, since the first getting-to-know-you were given in the past few days. This would ensure a closer rapport among the students and we as teachers, and thus, build trust and confidence. It will then be beneficial to show this video to articulate the purpose and meaning of what we are about to do. 

Experience. After the introduction, start with their own personal experiences. One can ask about core information about the pandemic. This can clear out many disinformation that they saw on social media. This can be followed by a sharing of their experiences, where feelings are surfaced and acknowledged.

Reflection. Then the students can reflect on their reactions or responses to the pandemic. It would be beneficial to begin with their initial experiences of a lockdown, and end with their reactions to the present situation as online school commences. They can contrast their first reaction and the present one, a before-and-after, to encourage depth in their reflection. Here we can note the effect of the pandemic on the physical, emotional, psychological and even social conditions of the students. 

Action. Having done this step, we can focus on a pro-active response. We can now teach ways of handling and coping with the various challenges of the unusual and difficult situation. Do not forget to mention snippets from their sharing to assure them that you listened to them.

Evaluation. And finally, we can ask how they plan to re-enter the new normal. A variety of the mental wellness tips can be used at the start of each class to aid their re-entry. 

Oftentimes, the collective experiences bring to the fore of their consciousness that what they shared are not uncommon, and their similar situations can forge stronger bonds of support from each other. This way, their strenuous experiences of the pandemic will be normalized and thus, we can hope that they can cope with the situation better, facilitating a more focused response to online education. 

Taking cura personalis to heart, our personal care for our students do not stop after this simple session. We continue to be vigilant just in case we have to refer students who need extra care to our Wellness and Testing Center. Nothing beats being there for our students as they —and we—struggle together as a school and as a community. 

Published by Jboy Gonzales SJ

TV host: ABSCBN's Kape't Pandasal. Environment. Culture. Music. Photography. Leadership. Edgy. Eccentric. Jesuit.

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