Educating during a Health Emergency: An Integrative Review of the Literature from 1990 to 2020

Prior to 2020, empirical research and reports on approaches to education during health crises were limited. They focused primarily on reporting local-level response and provided only limited analysis. Various historic epidemics, like SARS, Ebola, and HIV/AIDS, provided important lessons about educational efficacy during major health emergencies. However, the sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an explosion of research on educating during a worldwide health crisis. This integrative literature review (Torraco 2005) uses the INEE Minimum Standards framework to conceptualize the response to pandemics and epidemics from 1990 to 2020. The research analyzes 124 empirical studies, practitioner and governmental reports, and historic accounts of Ebola, SARS, and other epidemics, as well as early responses to COVID-19, in order to understand how education stakeholders continued educating during widespread communicable illnesses. The high-level themes that emerged included the foundational role of context and community support; access to an equitable education in the digital age; the social-emotional wellbeing of teachers and students; teachers’ role in adapting curriculum and pedagogy; the need for additional training and support for teachers; and the opportunity for a creative shift in practices and policies in education.


The authors discuss their work in the Behind the Pages podcast episode embedded below:

Resource Info

Resource Type

Journal Article


Published by

Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE)

Authored by

Kathlyn E. Elliott, Katie A. Mathew, Yiyun Fan, and David Mattson


Coronavirus (COVID-19)