college professor engaging students in class

Scaffolded Support for Teaching Gateway Courses Toolkit

NIU has a long and proud history of serving students from all backgrounds, but data on student outcomes shine a light on areas in which we could improve. In gateway courses, for example, some students struggle with meeting our expectations, resulting in higher DFUW rates and equity gaps. This program provides faculty with the tools, resources, and support needed to create inclusive and engaging teaching and learning environments where all students can succeed. 

This pilot program was first piloted during fall 2022 and was aligned to our HLC Quality Initiative and university goals for student success and student experience. We provided faculty with scaffolded support to improve student success in the gateway course(s) they were teaching by sending email newsletters with timely reminders and suggestions at pivotal points in the semester of specific, actionable strategies they could use to support students success without compromising academic rigor. 

Faculty were asked to implement at least one strategy recommended at each of those pivotal points and to provide us with feedback on the strategy they tried, what impact it had, and how our support could be improved.

Creating a Student-Centered Syllabus

Your syllabus is an important opportunity to communicate with students that they can be successful and belong in your course. Your students may form their first impression of you and your course based on the syllabus.

Starting Strong in the First Week

The first week is the best opportunity to make a positive initial impression and present your vision of the class to your students. This is a great time to pique their curiosity in the subject matter by introducing big questions they will answer or problems they will explore.

Creating (and Sustaining) a Sense of Belonging

The second week of class is a good time to continue connecting with students and building a sense of belonging and community in your classes. Students who feel like they belong to a classroom community are more likely to succeed in your classes.

Supporting the Disappearing Student

In every semester there are a number of students who receive failing grades not because they performed poorly on assessments, but because they stopped attending class and submitting assignments, or because they never attended. How do we reach these students that are disengaged and unmotivated?

Incorporating Universal Design for Learning

Our students are diverse, and they have individualized learning needs. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework combined with what you have learned about your students helps you to design effective teaching and learning experiences that are flexible to support the needs of all learners.

Connecting Students with Institutional Support

Faculty can have a significant impact on students’ success by connecting them with support resources to help them. This is particularly true for first-generation students, as faculty impart both intellectual capital and institutional resources critical to navigating higher education.

Providing Effective Feedback

While grading and providing feedback often require a significant time commitment, they are essential to students’ learning and success. It is in both our and our students’ best interest to make that feedback effective and fair.

Collecting Mid-semester Feedback

Mid-semester feedback gives you the opportunity to tailor student feedback to your particular course and your students’ needs. It also provides you with the opportunity to engage students in a dialogue about their feedback and what it reveals about their experiences in your course.

Reenergizing Yourself and Your Students

Our overall wellness encompasses factors such as emotional, occupational, and social well-being that can increase or decrease energy and engagement. Attending to our energy needs and helping students address their challenges can foster an improved sense of overall well-being and help us be more effective in and out of the classroom.

Increasing Evaluation Response Rates

Students provide valuable feedback on our teaching in end-of-semester evaluations of instruction. Online course evaluations typically elicit a lower response rate than paper-based course evaluations, but there are several strategies you could use to increase response rates for your courses.

Finishing the Semester on a High Note

In the flurry of end of semester activities, it may be tempting to race through the final projects, exams, and grading without thoughtfully considering how we will approach the final days of the semester. However, we want to end the course as meaningfully as we started it.

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Teaching and Learning

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