What I Wish My Professor Knew
In Fall of 2014, a group of students from Stanford's student-run First-Generation and/or Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) created a program called "What I Wish My Professor Knew" to help Stanford faculty understand how their classroom practices and statements could contribute to First Generation and/or Low-Income (FLI) students feeling alienated or welcomed at Stanford.
“Even though some of us might wish to conceptualize our classrooms as culturally neutral or might choose to ignore the cultural dimensions, students cannot check their sociocultural identities at the door . . .”
- Ambrose et al., How Learning Works, p. 169
Thinking about how to support the success of all students is vital to effective teaching. Practices that support the success of members of underrepresented groups include things such as active learning and supporting a growth mindset, practices that are helpful for the learning of all students. We need to:
- Examine assumptions we might hold about different populations within the Stanford community, including our students.
- Have a helpful attitude toward your students that pairs general, positive expectations with a willingness to provide extra help to any student who demonstrates a need and the willingness to accept it.
- Intentionally create a community in which all students feel a sense of belonging and a willingness to engage in civil discourse.
- Encourage your students to examine their own assumptions, and become more informed, more sensitive, and more conscious about ethnic, racial, and gender issues, as well as other issues unique to a college population (for example, attitudes towards student athletes, nontraditional students, and students in different majors).
First Day Best Practices
- If class size permits, ask students to introduce themselves, providing their name and pronoun.
- Address costs of course materials:
- Are previous editions of the book acceptable?
- Are there copies on reserve at the library? Visit Stanford's library reserves page.
- Are there desk copies available?
- Discuss your goals and how class assignments and assessments support those goals (see UNLV's Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project).
- Tell students about yourself – what do you love about your topic, what does your field bring to the world, how does this topic relate to other things?
- Consider creating shared ground rules for the course:
- Graduate Student Teaching Assistants – This Checklist will give you a clear outline to start building an inclusive learning community on your first day of teaching.
Additional Resources for First Day Teaching Practices
- Tips for fostering an inclusive and accessible classroom from the start of the term
- Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Classroom Equity
Creating an Inclusive Syllabus
You can increase students’ sense of belonging even before your class starts by thinking through the choices you make on your course syllabus. Here are a few points to consider:
- Have you considered the representation of authors on your syllabus?
- Are there historical and current issues in your field that may be worth discussing?
- Do you discuss how knowledge is discovered, valued, and conveyed in your field?
- Is the overall syllabus tone one of invitation, rather than a list of what students should not do?
- Do course assessments provide a variety of ways for students to demonstrate mastery of the material?
Students with Disabilities
All courses at Stanford should include the following statement in the syllabus:
"Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066, URL: http://oae.stanford.edu)."
In addition, instructors should provide OAE with syllabi, textbooks, course readers, etc. in advance of the quarter (5 weeks prior to the start of the quarter is recommended) to allow media to be converted as needed. For additional information, see the Office of Accessible Education's page on Faculty Responsibilities.
Affordability of and Access to Course Materials
It can be helpful to address the cost of course materials in your syllabus and on the first day of class. Consider placing the books and materials for your course on reserve in one of the libraries (http://library.stanford.edu/using/borrow-renew-return/course-reserves). You may also discuss options with your department, such as having kits or desk copies of textbooks available to check out or borrow.
In addition, please consider including the following statement advising students of support options for course expenses:
"Stanford University and its instructors are committed to ensuring that all courses are financially accessible to all students. If you are an undergraduate who needs assistance with the cost of course textbooks, supplies, materials and/or fees, you are welcome to approach me directly. If would prefer not to approach me directly, please note that you can ask the Diversity & First-Gen Office for assistance by completing their questionnaire on course textbooks & supplies: http://tinyurl.com/jpqbarn or by contacting Joseph Brown, the Associate Director of the Diversity and First-Gen Office (email@example.com; Old Union Room 207). Dr. Brown is available to connect you with resources and support while ensuring your privacy.”
Academic Support for Students
Stanford has a number of wonderful resources for academic support. How you talk about support may make students more or less likely to use these resources, so it can be helpful to indicate that you don’t need to be “struggling” to benefit from tutoring, academic coaching, or speaking and writing support.