Strategies for Inclusive Teaching:

Support Student Success

One of the things each student is learning in your course (whether it is an explicit goal of your course or not) is how to be a successful learner. Some students come in with a considerable history of success in courses similar to yours; others' success may be in other areas, and your course may be what helps them determine if this is an area for them to continue studying.

The message of respect, fairness, and high expectations will be heard more clearly if it comes with the message that the instructor is structuring the course in ways that support students in their efforts to succeed. Otherwise, instructor messages of high expectations for learning can easily come across as "sink or swim."

For an instructor, it may be necessary to begin by re-aligning understandings of the subject matter to include not only the propositional content presented in course materials ("what students need to know"), but also the skills and practices students need to acquire in order to engage with the course content and take full advantage of learning opportunities in the course.

Specific strategies for supporting student success can then help instructors align student expectations with this understanding of what is required for learning, and with their commitment to helping students meet high expectations in the course.

Support Student Success

Help students learn strategies for successful studying in the discipline

You can assist students in their efforts to meet your high expectations for the course by helping them learn strategies for successful studying, class preparation, and participation. In addition to expert practices of the discipline, students may still be learning more general study practices such as taking on lengthy reading assignments, dividing tasks among group members, or anticipating the amount of time required for completing a project. Instructors can support student success by identifying these strategies as things that need to be learned, and by providing explicit directions and coaching to guide them in their learning.

Related Resources

A number of issues of the CIDR Teaching and Learning Bulletin provide strategies and examples of guidelines for helping students succeed in your course:

CIDR has also collected internet Resources and Tools for Teaching on many topics related to supporting student success in different teaching situations. For example,

For links to resources and tools on these and other topics, see CIDR Resources.

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Support Student Success

Let students know what you have done to become a successful learner in the discipline

Many people associate ability with identity, assuming that success as a learner somehow "came naturally" to an instructor. If instructors show students how they have put time and effort into learning, it can help students see that they can also be successful by making similar efforts, even if they think have little else in common with the instructor.

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Support Student Success

Make sure assignment guidelines and grading criteria are clearly communicated

Instructions for an assignment can be structured in ways that guide students’ work on the assignment, and students often interpret grading criteria as a means for communicating what the instructor values most (whether or not that is the instructor’s intention). These criteria can also help align student expectations with the nature of the course content; for example, showing that learning is demonstrated by more than simply memorizing for a test, but in fact requires analysis, synthesis, or application of material. By making these guidelines and criteria explicit to students at the very beginning, instructors can help them learn more successfully through the work that is assigned.

As you are planning your course,

  • Consult with colleagues or CIDR on ways to think about developing the course, devising assignments, and communicating with students about appropriate expectations for the course. You can also refer to CIDR Resources for Course and Syllabus Design
  • Determine appropriate grading policies and assignment guidelines, and design your syllabus to make sure these things are clearly communicated to students.
  • Design your syllabus so that it communicates to students what you expect them to learn and also how to succeed in achieving the learning goals for your course. (See Strategies for Successful Studying, above)

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Support Student Success

Take steps to establish good working relationships in class

Students need to be confident of the instructor’s efforts to support their success, and they also need to know each other well enough to know if their contributions to class will be welcomed by other students. You can take steps to support student success by creating opportunities for students to get to know each other so that they will be able to work together constructively.

  • Plan for students to introduce themselves to one another and to you.
  • Determine what you want to know about students and collect that information from them in writing (for example, name, contact information, interest or experience with the material to be presented in the course)
  • Determine what you want students to know about each other and plan activities that will allow them to learn these things about their fellow students.


Related Resources: Who are the Students?

Demographic Profiles of the UW Student Body from the UW Factbook

Diversity at the UW

The Chronicle of Higher Education Freshman Survey, update annually

Group Profiles. Part 2 of Teaching for Inclusion, a publication of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Mindset List, published annually by Beloit College, highlighting life experiences and perspectives of this year's incoming freshman class

UW Study of Undergraduate Learning (UW SOUL)


Related Resources: Getting to Know the Students in Your Class

In addition to getting a general picture of the UW student body (see Who are the Students?, above), find out what you can about the interests, goals, backgrounds, and experience of the students who are in your class.

Catalyst Tools to create on-line opportunities for student interaction

First Day of Class ideas to help you get to know your students

Classroom Assessment Tools for ongoing formative assessment of students in your course

Midterm Class Interviews for student feedback partway through the course

Design Your Own Ways of Collecting Student Feedback

Name Pronunciation Guide, designed to help native speakers of English more accurately pronounce common Asian names, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


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Support Student Success

Remind students of resources available for help

In addition to the help offered through the course or department -- for example, office hours, study sessions, and tutoring centers -- instructors can remind students of resources beyond the course, such as writing centers, campus services for students with disabilities, or resources for non-native English speakers that might be available. Instructors can support student success by acknowledging the importance of these resources, and letting students know there is no stigma attached to getting extra help.

Each of these strategies helps make instructor commitments to supporting student success more visible, aligning students with instructor expectations for what is required for learning in a course.

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Support Student Success

Responding to Problems

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may still get reports that students find their backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences are not valued. These situations may suggest a real need for change, or they may point to a misperception on the part of the students. In either case, it is important to get more information, and to formulate a response. Some options include:

  • Discuss the situation with a peer or colleague who may have insights from teaching similar courses or helping students who have struggled with similar issues.
  • Openly discuss the topic with students. Let them know you understand that some students are have raised this concern, and discuss with them ways that you will respond to it.
  • If there are changes you intend to make, let students know what the intended changes are and later, ask for their feedback on how helpful the changes have been.

Other Inclusive Teaching Strategies

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site last updated: February 1, 2008
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