One way to support your students’ mental health and well-being is to exercise care when creating your course syllabus. Eberly, Newton, and Wiggins (2001) suggest that syllabi should serve to address three domains of need in higher education: administrative, course development and interpersonal. Unfortunately, most syllabi do not address all three of these domains. “[T]he syllabus is viewed not as a learning tool but as a calendar of events. If more effort was put into constructing the syllabus initially, faculty would find that the stage is better set for the implicit teaching-learning contract on the first day of class, as well as directing course expectations for the remainder of the semester” (Eberly et al., 2001 p. 69).
To empower students to take a more active role in their learning, syllabi can even be created collaboratively (Hudd, 2003). For ideas about how to make a more student-centered syllabus, check out “Syllabus Solutions: Examining Your Syllabi for Evidence of True Student Centeredness.”
Your well-being is a priority in this class – above even learning the content. College and its coursework are difficult for everyone, and this difficulty can become overwhelming. If you are struggling to cope, please reach out to me, the TA, a friend or family member, or another resource. I’m not trained as a professional counselor, but I can help you get the support you need. Here are a few resources that may be helpful:
Please do not hesitate to reach out. My job as an instructor is to help ensure everyone in this class learns, feels cared for, and knows that they belong in this course and at UT.
For more resources related to drafting effective syllabi, see the Center for Teaching and Learning’s An Effective Syllabus page.
For more information about required and recommended syllabus components, see the UT Provost’s Office Your Syllabus at UT Austin page.
Check out this sample syllabus to see how one UT professor effectively incorporates inclusive language that supports student well-being and promotes a growth mindset.
Here’s a list of Resources for Students you can adapt to attach to your syllabus and post in your Canvas course. (See this example from the Cockrell School of Engineering.)
Here’s a Quick Response Card with recommendations and resources for responding to students in distress.
The syllabus, like the information at the end, when it’s copy and pasted, and it’s the same regarding disabilities, religious service, mental health, whatever, I don’t feel comfortable talking because I have to have this conversation with all of my professors at the beginning of every semester, and some of them I straight up just never tell them about what I need if it’s copy and pasted because I know how that conversation’s going to go, and it usually does not go well. But if they put in a personal note of how open they are and what they’re willing to do, then it’s a lot better. I think that is not something that ever should be copy and pasted, saying how much they give attention to disabilities because it’s really, really hard for students to be able to talk to professors about it, and if you couldn’t even take the time to write out “come see me,” then it’s just like I don’t want to talk to you about this.
Altman, H. B., & Cashin, W. E. (1992). Writing a Syllabus. IDEA Paper No. 27. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED395539
Dechavez, Y. (October 2018). It’s Time to Decolonize that Syllabus. Los Angeles Times.
Eberly, M. B., Newton, S. E., & Wiggins, R. A. (2001). The Syllabus as a Tool for Student-Centered Learning. The Journal of General Education, 50(1), 56–74. https://doi.org/10.1353/jge.2001.0003
Gurung, R. A. R., & Galardi, N. R. (2021). Syllabus Tone, More Than Mental Health Statements, Influence Intentions to Seek Help. Teaching of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628321994632
Hudd, S. S. (2003). Syllabus under Construction: Involving Students in the Creation of Class Assignments. Teaching Sociology, 31(2), 195–202. https://doi.org/10.2307/3211308
Supiano, B. (March 2021). Teaching: How Your Syllabus Can Encourage Students to Ask for Help. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Teaching Newsletter).
Weimer, M. (January 2018). As You’re Preparing the Syllabus… Faculty Focus.
Various articles from Faculty Focus about effective syllabus creation.