Annual inclusive classroom training for academic departments is in its third year this fall. The sessions are required for all instructors, but it is students who benefit.
"We share updates with student government so they know what is going on, and we are very intentional about that because we want them to have more input for future programs," said Laura Bestler, a Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) program specialist. "We did a workshop with them last year, and it is super helpful to hear their experiences and what they felt was important."
That communication helped shape this year's training and will continue to impact it going forward, Bestler said. Students are a focus from the first sentence a CELT instructor says to open each session: "On behalf of our students . . ."
This year's training is about supporting students through a mindful and learner-centered syllabus. It shows how a syllabus can foster an inclusive classroom and helps identify strategies for creating a mindful syllabus. Each year brings a new topic determined through feedback during trainings, a survey with unit leaders and departmental facilitators, and input from university leaders and CELT boards.
"The one thing we know all faculty have is a syllabus, and it is the one connection point our students have with their instructor and campus community," Bestler said. "It's the first place where students are introduced to who we are as instructors, what the course is about and the resources available to them on campus."
A main focus is making a syllabus something more important than a first-day-of-class ritual, Bestler said. It can be used as a communication tool throughout the semester.
Every department on campus will go through training, which includes five scenarios ranging from student support to encouraging student attendance.
"All of the topics are based on experiences our faculty have had," Bestler said.
CELT staff administer the training -- face-to-face or virtually -- to 63 departments during the fall semester. As of Aug. 19, all but five departments had scheduled their training, with a handful completing it before the start of classes.
"It is becoming institutionalized, which is a good thing, and our students appreciate that the faculty are putting this as a priority," Bestler said.
CELT published a two-year summary of the training this year that found 98% of participants recognized why teaching inclusively is important and 94% identified course-specific improvements to foster inclusive teaching.
"It is important we take time to do this because good teaching is inclusive teaching," Bestler said. "Taking time to talk about teaching strategies so our students can be more successful is the biggest thing we have gleaned from the first two years."