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Week One
Creating a Student-Centered Syllabus

In this first week, we will focus on the syllabus, 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. When you craft or revise your syllabus, think about the message you are sending to students. What does your syllabus convey about how you view students – do your policies communicate trust or suspicion? Do they demonstrate that you respect students or only that you expect them to respect you? Do they imply that students are valued or a nuisance?


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Your Syllabus as a Tool to Promote Student Equity, Belonging and Growth

This online module from the Student Experience Project includes a wealth of practical tips for developing syllabi that promote a growth mindset and cultivate a sense of belonging.

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NIU Syllabus Toolkit

This toolkit comprises several NIU resources focused on creating a syllabus, including a comprehensive guide to writing a syllabus, a checklist of key elements, sample statements for creating an inclusive learning environment, and more.

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Effective Social Belonging Messages

This article by the College Transition Collaborative provides a guide to communicating to students that they belong in your course and in higher education, despite any feelings of isolation, inadequacy, or being an imposter.

Recommended Strategies

Choose one of the following strategies to implement

Review Policies for Equity

Review course policies for student-centeredness by following the steps in the Policy Review: Creating Student-Centered Course Policies guide by the College Transition Collaborative. Student-centered policies respect the diversity and complexity of students’ lives and create an equitable and inclusive learning environment.

Revise Language Using a Growth Mindset

Revise your syllabus to incorporate a growth mindset when setting expectations by following the steps in the Establishing Expectations guide from the College Transition Collaborative. Growth mindset communicates to students that they can develop their abilities over time by facing and overcoming challenging material.

Add Statements of Inclusion

The Americans with Disabilities and Non-Discrimination Statement is required and there are many other statements of support that you can consider. Incorporate at least 1 other inclusive statement in your course syllabus.

Ensure Your Syllabus is Accessible to All Students

Use Heading styles in Microsoft Word to improve the accessibility of your Syllabus. Attend the Designing an Accessible Syllabus workshop on August 9 or review the toolkit content to Create an Accessible Syllabus in Word. Use Blackboard Ally or Check Accessibility in Word to identify changes to improve your syllabus’ accessibility. BONUS: Having an accessible syllabus is the first step in earning the Fight for Good Ally badge.

Next Steps

Please review the resources and select at least one of the recommended strategies to implement within your syllabus for the upcoming semester. Regardless of the strategy you employ, you can also reflect on the overall impression that your syllabus provides to students about you, your course, and your field.

As part of the Scaffolded Support program, we will be asking you to submit progress reports so we can gauge the impact of the program and its strategies on student success. As such, we recommend that you keep track of your implemented strategies and whether you noticed any impact on students so that you can include that information in your first report.

Next week, we will share resources on planning for your first day of class. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, feel free to let us know at

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Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595

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