Reflect on your equity-awareness
How you think about your students matters—deeply
- Test yourself for bias: Take the Implicit Association Test (IAT)—or enroll in CETL’s Inclusive Teaching Program
- Treat high percentages of student failure as an opportunity to examine or modify course delivery or structure
- Make sure your course materials (a reflection of you) are student centered and bias-free
- Do an item analysis for any high-stakes (midterm/final) assignment you give to determine validity
- Perform an equity gap analysis of your course(s): Who is most likely to pass? Is there a pattern?
Practice equity in assignments
Tell students what the ground rules are
- Share your criteria and standards for successful task completion (rubrics, sample papers/projects)
- Weigh your assignments evenly; avoid any assignment worth more than 30% of a grade
- Time due dates thoughtfully
- Grade inclusively: avoid curving; it limits numbers of who can excel and is a proven disincentive to study
Give students choices and time to demonstrate they are learning
- Use formative assessments early so students can discover their knowledge and skills-gaps with time to adjust/persist; examples include low-stakes quizzes, quick writes, homework, and discussion participation
- Allow students to earn their grade in a variety of ways—avoid high-stakes, summative assessments like midterm/final-only evaluations; repeated assessments are better than one-time testing
Help students participate and belong
Assume all students want to be part of a learning community
- Make an attempt to learn students’ names
- Use proximity with, and call on all students, equitably; treat all questions and concerns with interest
- Let students know when and how to contact you with questions or concerns
- Send a message to students who are not participating based on your gradebook or logs
- Create short (1-5 minute) videos to introduce each week. Only-audio also works
Experience is powerful
Relate course material to the rich, lived experience of students
- Measure students’ prior knowledge about course topics using a knowledge survey or questionnaire
- Use personal anecdotes to make material relevant
- Incorporate the heritage language of students (and culturally-relevant examples) in course materials
- Use metaphors to represent difficult content
Promote engagement inside and outside the course
- Require at least one office-hours visit, which can be in a group
- Require or encourage students to seek regular advising, internships, and networking with faculty
- Include university support services in your syllabus so students know where to go for help
Your instructional materials should avoid ‘hidden curriculum’
Be crystal clear
- Make sure your syllabus is accessible
- Write student learning outcomes (objectives) for students, not experts
- Link course activities directly to course goals
- Use simple, friendly language in prompts and directions
- Make an assignment transparent: Specify purpose, all related tasks, and criteria for evaluation
Show your subject matter organization
- Review the previous week, outline your lecture, and recap each session
- Use a diagram or concept map to show how your discipline organizes knowledge
- Tell students what the discipline values and how (E.g. creativity, ingenuity, problem-solving)
- Show students how to read writing genres from the discipline
- Ask students to set a learning goal for a personal connection to the material
- Use reflection to help students think about how they approach assignments and tests
- Teach students to take notes; provide “skeleton notes,” partial-lecture note handouts students can download
- Share study skills that worked for you when you were a student.
Give and Solicit Feedback
Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement in the college classroom.
- Check randomly for student understanding in class (muddiest point, minute-paper, pair and share, cold calling, clickers or other peer response systems). You want to know how ALL students are doing
- Post grades in Canvas using Speed Grader so students can track their progress (eliminate surprises)
- Solicit feedback at the mid-term in case you need to make adjustments; don’t wait until the end of semester
- Use peers to give feedback: Peer discussion improves student performance
Give the right kind of feedback
- Praise student work and effort, not intelligence; students who believe they can get better with hard work perform better
- Give feedback no later than ten days following a due date
- Provide feedback to correct, not just incorrect, responses
- Allow students to think about why they did/not do well on an assignment via reflection.
Aiken, L.R. (1989). Learning students' names. Journal of Social Studies Research, 13(2), 24-27.
Brame, C. J., & Biel, R. (2017). Test-enhanced learning: The potential for testing to promote greater learning in undergraduate science courses. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 14(2): es41-es412.
Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L. & McDaniel, M.A. Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.
Cooper, K.M., Haney, B., Krieg, A., & Brownell, S.E. (2017). What’s in a name? The importance of students perceiving that an instructor knows their names in a high-enrollment biology classroom. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 16(1): ar8-13.
Dubey, P., & Geanakoplos, J. (2010). Grading exams: 100, 99, 98,…or A,B,C? Games and Economic Behavior 69(1): 72-94.
Feldman, J. (2020, January 27). Improved Grading Makes Classrooms More Equitable. [Web log post].
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.
Lang, J.M. (2012, January 17). Metacognition and student learning. Chronicle of Higher Education.
Smith, B. (2013). Mentoring at-risk students through the hidden curriculum of higher education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Smith, M.K., Wood, W.B., Adams, W.K., Knight, J.K., Guild, N. and T.T. Su. 2009). Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions. Science, 323: 122-124.
Volk, S. (2018, April 16). Less is more: Low-stakes assessments and student success. [Web log post].