Inclusive and Antiracist Syllabus Suggestions

These recommendations complement the Brandeis University Syllabus Template (docx).

Activities In Class

Create opportunities during class for students to apply concepts you’ve taught them and to practice new skills in class where they can gather feedback from you and/or peers before they must work on their own. The Transparent Equitable Learning Framework (pdf) and Transparent Assignment Design Template (pdf) can help to frame such exercises and discussions. Try not to privilege one type of learner repeatedly over others. A variety of in-class activities throughout the course will appeal to the students’ multiple learning strengths and opportunities for growth.

Breaks

Class meetings of 90 minutes include a 10-minute break, while class meetings of 180 minutes include two breaks, at the instructor’s discretion.

Course Materials and Open Education Resources

The costs of textbooks and other course materials can present financial challenges for many of our students. Please consider ways you can reduce costs for your students and promote student success while complying with copyright law. Sixteen percent of the undergraduate population are Pell Grant recipients and 14% are first-generation college students.

Difficult Discussions

Students often adjust their perspectives and question their understanding and beliefs as part of the learning process. Sometimes this leads to strong emotions around deeply held or shifting beliefs. Collaboratively defined expectations for class participation (below, under “Participation”) may be helpful. These Discussion Guidelines from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching are also useful.

Disciplinary History and Methods

You may wish to include a statement to acknowledge systemic inequities in this discipline’s historiography and methodologies, including how the academic field that you represent either sustained/sustains or combatted/combats racism. You can include how this course will address racism.

Diverse Representation

Please select readings and materials that represent a diversity of voices on topics where possible. This guide on Diversifying Course Materials can help. Also, consult Laura Hibbler, and your subject librarians for assistance.

Guiding Prep Questions

Provide several guiding questions for students to focus on while they prepare for class. Then discuss those questions during class. This offers students an equitable opportunity for all students to arrive prepared to participate in class.

Land Acknowledgment

If it is helpful to the course, this information might be included in a land acknowledgment:The Brandeis campus sits on land that was sacred to the Massachusett nation, including four tribes existing today: the Mattakeeset, Natick, Ponkapoag and Namasket. Both Native Americans and Africans were enslaved in the colony of Massachusetts.

Learning Goals

Include a summary of what subject matter and skills the course will focus on, and how students will apply these in the course and beyond. These learning goals can be emphasized again as the purpose of individual course activities, assignments, and class meetings to increase students’ metacognitive awareness of their learning.

Participation

Share your expectations about what class participation means in your class, and gather their suggestions. These may include student behaviors like: completing the readings each week before coming to class, using focus questions to prepare for class discussions, keeping the screen view on during Zoom meetings, raising questions as soon as ideas become unclear (either in class or via online communications between classes), listening actively and attentively, responding thoughtfully and constructively to the comments made by other class members, reading and responding to course-related emails and posts, etc. Professor Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld shares the description in the video below and this Reciprocal Expectations document (pdf) of how he and students collaborate to define class participation.

Professor Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld talking about social contracts

Social Contracts and Reciprocal Expectations

Professor Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld

Portfolio

Encourage students to post work samples and reflective paragraphs about those samples that demonstrate their mastery of each skill set or content area they learn in the course.  A Google folder that you structure with a subfolder for each course learning goal can allow students to access their portfolio examples even after graduation. Students’ portfolio entries can help students, faculty and departments to demonstrate students’ learning. Portfolio entries can help students to maintain a metacognitive awareness of their learning through college, and to communicate their learning effectively to potential employers.

Teaching/Learning Approaches

Identify the rationale for how the teaching/learning methods used in the course will support students’ achievement of the learning goals. You can list several teaching/learning strategies that you’ll use to ensure all students have equitable opportunities to succeed in the course. You may want to include advice from former students of techniques that they used to be successful learners in the class. These resources are particularly helpful for faculty teaching in a partly or fully online environment:

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers syllabus reviews and help with constructing course materials, assignments and activities. Contact CTL@brandeis.edu for support.