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Humanizing the Syllabus
Rethinking the Course Syllabus: Considerations for Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Introduction: Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are receiving considerable attention in higher education. Within psychology, the American Psychological Association has highlighted the importance of cultural diversity in both undergraduate and graduate curricula and charged educators with facilitating the development of cultural competence among learners. Statement of the Problem: Many resources have been developed to help promote EDI within higher education. The resources developed have mainly focused on the curricula and pedagogical approaches, yet the syllabus remains overlooked with few guidelines available to educators. Literature Review: We offer several considerations informed by theoretical frameworks and best practices in the discipline and suggestions for the successful implementation of EDI in the syllabus. Teaching Implications: This article provides a comprehensive and useful guide for developing a syllabus that assists with the integration of EDI, as the syllabus is the first opportunity for faculty to communicate their philosophy, expectations, requirements, and other course information. Conclusion: Infusing EDI in the syllabus is essential for promoting an inclusive learning environment and is conducive to establishing goals related to cultural competence.
The Syllabus Reconstructed: An Analysis of Traditional and Visual Syllabi for Information Retention and Inclusiveness
The current research examines whether a visual syllabus aids in information retention compared to a traditional text-based syllabus. The data derive from two lower-division sociology classes, each having a different syllabus format. Utilizing a syllabus quiz during the first week of the class provides the data about whether syllabus format matters. The data suggest the visual syllabus class retained more information given that students exposed to the visual approach scored significantly higher on a quiz than the traditional syllabus class. The current research presents an overview of why visuals may help in information retention with emphasis on the importance of inclusive course material and nontraditional students; an explanation of the data, methods, and analytic procedure followed by the findings; as well as a critical evaluation of and points to consider when creating a visual syllabus.
Engaging Diversity Through Course Design and Preparation
The article discusses how intercultural pedagogical principles can be incorporated during the stage of course design and preparation. It is informed that learning outcomes of both students and instructors could be enhanced through mindful and thorough preparation. It is informed that intercultural pedagogy should focus on core content, learning activities and the design of the classroom environment to reflect the importance of engaging diversity. It is informed that students' active engagement could be generated through incorporating conditional language into the syllabus, reading selections and enriching communication with students.
Humanizing Online Teaching to Equitize Higher Education
Online courses are increasing access to college for students who have been traditionally left out of higher education. However, minoritized students are less likely to succeed online when compared to their White and Asian peers. As the student population becomes more diverse, colleges and universities have an opportunity to improve this problem by preparing faculty to design and facilitate inclusive online learning experiences that more effectively support the needs of all learners. This paper presents a model for humanized online teaching using a theoretical framework influenced by Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), social presence, validation theory, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Humanized online teaching ensures the noncognitive components of learning are addressed through instructor-student relationships and community, allowing connection and empathy to drive engagement and rigor. Six humanizing strategies with real teaching examples are discussed, in addition to goals for meaningful professional development to support the adoption of humanized online teaching.
Effect of syllabus tone: students’ perceptions of instructor and course
It is not uncommon for students to complain that faculty are unapproachable, while faculty complain that students are not engaged. Such perceptions, especially when formed at the start of a semester, can impact what students learn and how instructors teach; therefore, it is critical that these perceptions are prevented if a course is to be successful. A good starting point is the syllabus, which not only informs students about a course and its requirements, but creates a first impression about the instructor and his or her attitudes toward teaching. We conducted an experiment in which the course syllabus was manipulated to reflect a friendly or an unfriendly tone so that we could explore the perceptions students formed of the instructor and class. Results supported the hypothesis that a syllabus written in a friendly, rather than unfriendly, tone evoked perceptions of the instructor being more warm, more approachable, and more motivated to teach the course.
Changes in syllabus tone affect warmth (but not competence) ratings of both male and female instructors
The syllabus is often the first meaningful piece of information that students receive about a course. Previous research has indicated that students form more positive impressions of a course instructor after reading a syllabus that has been manipulated to convey information in a friendly, rather than unfriendly, tone (Harnish and Bridges in Soc Psychol Educ 14:319-330, 2011). While a friendly syllabus leads to increased perceptions of instructor warmth and approachability, it is unclear from this previous research whether a friendly syllabus may also lead to decreases in the perceived competence of the instructor. Thus, we aimed to clarify whether changes in syllabus tone affect perceptions of instructor competency. We also wished to explore the possibility of gender bias affecting these syllabus-based impressions of instructors, and to examine whether differences in syllabus tone impact the impressions formed of male and female instructors in the same way. Participants read a friendly or unfriendly course syllabus from either a male, female, or gender-unspecified instructor. Regardless of instructor gender, participants receiving the friendly syllabus perceived the instructor as being more approachable, more caring, and more motivating, but not any more or less competent, compared to those receiving the unfriendly syllabus. While instructors will be relieved to know that efforts to appear friendly on a course syllabus do not appear to negatively impact student perceptions of instructor competence, more research is needed to examine the potential role of gender bias on students’ initial impressions of instructors.
Syllabus Language, Teaching Style, and Instructor Self-Perception: Toward Congruence
As with all language, the words of a syllabus carry emotional associations. Previous literature has not objectively measured the emotional associations of syllabus language or explored the relationship between instructors' teaching style and the emotional associations of syllabus language. Using the Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance (PAD) framework, this article reports baseline measurements for syllabus language, investigates the relationship between Grasha's teaching styles and instructors' self-perceived emotional associations with teaching, and compares instructors' self-perceptions with the emotional associations of their syllabus language. Moderate correlations between teaching PAD scores and Grasha's teaching style inventory suggest the emotion that may connect with concrete teaching attitudes and behaviors. Crucially, we find that most instructors' syllabi are incongruent with their teaching self-perceptions on key emotional dimensions. In other words, instructors' syllabi are not communicating the central emotional associations of their instructor self-perception. Syllabus language can be altered, however, to align more closely with instructor self-perception.
Can a learner-centered syllabus change students’ perceptions of student–professor rapport and master teacher behaviors?
There have been few studies assessing students’ use and perception of traditional teacher-centered syllabi versus learner-centered syllabi. Therefore, we compared students’ perceptions of both teacher-centered and learner-centered syllabi using an experimental design. In the present study, 90 students were randomly assigned to either learner- or teacher-centered syllabi; they rated the faculty authors using well-validated measures of teaching behaviors. Student perceptions of faculty using a learner-centered syllabus were markedly more positive; they rated faculty as more creative, caring, happy, receptive, reliable, and enthusiastic as well as having more student engagement in their class than faculty using a teacher-centered syllabus. Implications for student engagement and learning are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Students’ Perceptions of Course Syllabi: The Role of Syllabi in Motivating Students
In this mixed methods study, researchers explored students' perceptions of different types of syllabi, the course, and the instructor articulated through the syllabi. Students were randomly assigned to read one of two US History syllabi: a content-focused syllabus (CFS), characterized as a traditional, content-focused, policy-laden syllabus; or a learning-focused syllabus (LFS), characterized by strong learning objectives, authentic assessments, and a positive, motivating tone. Results show that LFS participants (n=61) had significantly more positive perceptions of the document, the course, and the instructor described by the document than CFS participants (n=66). LFS participants found, for example, more of the syllabus components to be useful, anticipated more student involvement in class, expected to learn more useful concepts and skills, and anticipated that the instructor would help them be successful. Although additional research is needed to determine generalizability of these results, we conclude that instructors have little to lose and much to gain by creating a learning-focused syllabus.
Teaching the Syllabus at the Community College
Reacting directly to the fact that even the best syllabus is worthless to the student who does not read it, this essay draws inspiration from research of the past decade, especially from the learning-focused syllabus concept that was introduced by three researchers at the University of Virginia, and uses a questionnaire to gauge our community college students' needs. It suggests specific methods to build the bridge between course content instruction and syllabus teaching. Ultimately, it contributes to the discussion of several important syllabus-related questions: How can instructors use the syllabus as a pedagogical tool to build a strong student rapport? How can instructors balance the syllabus to build a positive academic atmosphere and fulfill course requirements? What are the ways to make the syllabus exemplary for student learning? What standard practices can be established in college syllabus education? The essay aims to increase student autonomy and community and student success, which is the goal of community college education.
Tulane University – Accessible Syllabus
From the website: This website is dedicated to helping instructors build a syllabus that plans for diverse student abilities and promotes an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable discussing their unique abilities. Countless instructors complain that students don’t read the syllabus. We believe students would use the document more effectively if it were designed more accessibly.
Accessibility is necessary for all learning, and disability studies provides a key lens through which to question our classroom practices and resources. To create more inclusive teaching, instructors must plan for diversity in the classroom and adapt to the immediate needs of students.