Today, an impressive number of faculty, staff, and students are joining the Zoom format of the annual Diversity, Inclusion and Access Symposium. The DIA initiative at Mines has been running strong since it’s inception in 2019. Under the leadership of Amy Landis, Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as numerous enthusiastic department and program leaders across campus, the symposium is a celebration of the efforts to create an inclusive and equitable campus environment for students, staff and faculty alike.
In addition to the reports, workshops, and discussions at the symposium, we wanted to briefly add a student data voice to the conversation and highlight ways that faculty across campus are developing inclusive classrooms. The following twelve items are positive policy and classroom strategies that students reported in the Every Oredigger survey as helpful and important for their learning. General strategy and policy themes are followed by an illustrating student quote from the survey:
- Showing interest in students’ lives outside of class. “They seemed genuinely interested in seeing me succeed in my own life, and really seemed to care for us students as people.”
- Opportunity to give feedback to the instructor about their perceived supportiveness of students. “One professor was very keen on ensuring that we, as students, were given every opportunity to succeed and ask for help if needed. We took a mid-course survey, and when the results produced a low score in terms of empathy, he made sure to improve that over the course of the semester, and for future courses.”
- Specific policies or syllabus statements to allow late assignments. ”One instructor of note gave students the ability to turn in all homework at the end of the semester without penalty.”
- Providing students opportunity to revise and resubmit work; Grade replacement policies. “Uses a holistic grading method where no assignment has a grade attached to it, but rather is a measure of progress throughout the semester (using reflections and goal setting). Additionally, allows all students to redo all assignments during the semester until they are satisfied. Not only does this take a lot of stress off of getting everything perfect within hard deadlines, it changes the mindset to focus on personal learning and growth, rather than being motivated by grades.”
- Addressing mental health and wellbeing directly with class verbally. “Multiple times in a semester he would talk about the support services on campus. That main support service he stressed was talking with him if we needed/wanted to about the problem.”
- Addressing mental health in syllabus or policies. “Prof. [X] provides extensions that is requested by students who email explaining why they need it. A valid reason for extensions is mental health related issues. The extension timeline is determined by the student and the professor. If there is further struggling, multiple extensions requested, he is diligent on meeting one on one to help the student succeed academically and personally.
- Effective use and scheduling of office hours. ”I believe a positive policy is having open door office hours and being open to questions even if they aren’t the best questions.”
- Flexibility or lenience with extension for extenuating circumstances. “Understanding about late work. Being able to submit work later than the deadline depending on the circumstances allowed the stress level to be lowered substantially. The instructor also was very clear and open on mental health concerns at the beginning of class. If anything was ever happening there was an open door policy to get assistance from the instructor.”
- Flexible or lenient attendance policies. “We were allowed three unexcused absences that would not affect our overall participation grade. We could use these absences for any reason at all, such as health related reasons or to study for tests, or anything else necessary to keep our life balanced. We did not need to say why we would be absent, which made it easier to use this policy.”
- Being a good role model of self-care and wellbeing. “My comp-sci teacher talks about life pretty often. He’s a grad student so he still has recent experiences of what college is like and what Mines is like and it’s nice that he talks about having the same struggles as his students. He tells stories about taking breaks to go outside and look at the stars while working into the late hours of the night.”
- Learning students’ names. “He always practices learning his students names and making an effort to increase learning.”
- Rescheduling assignments or exams for the entire class in recognition of when students are overscheduled. “My professor heard a student mumble about how he had 4 exams in one week, three of them being junior mining classes that all classmates had to take and imidetly responded “Oh no we can’t have that!” and preceded to have an open discussion with us students of when would be a good time to reschedule the exam.”
For additional ideas for inclusive classroom policies and strategies, see the DIA checklist and the Strategies to Develop Supportive Classroom Strategies resource. Pro tip: The checklist can be used as a self-evaluation tool every semester. How do you score? What new ideas might you want to try this semester?