Be welcoming to the students that may need disability accommodation

DSC05303I have to confess I don’t like to be told what goes on my syllabus. After all, it is my class and I have a very good idea of how to teach and how to reach out to students. I understand that a syllabus is an extremely important document that tells students exactly what to expect from the class and when to expect it. I’m frustrated by colleagues that don’t understand a student’s need for predictability with respect to their classes. I spend days on my syllabus every semester, trying to get it just right, both in content and tone. Here is last year’s on Wikipedia.

These days universities require a statement about how disabled students are accommodated, like this one from Wash U. Students with documented issues get accommodation by law. Apparently they also need to be told of this right on our syllabi. But what about the students that could benefit from things like extra time on tests but don’t realize they can get it if they have certain kinds of documentation? I worry about those students too, so I try to teach in ways where there is little in-class time pressure on quizzes and tests.

But now I realize I wasn’t doing enough. I had the university statement and link about disabilities, but did it make students needing help, or worried that they might, feel reassured? No, not as much as I might have done, I discovered from a link my sociology professor daughter posted here. Check out that interesting piece by Tara Wood and Shannon Madden at University of Oklahoma. Make this an important part of your syllabus and welcome students facing more than the usual challenges.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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