Drafting Syllabi: Policies from Around Campus

Hi, Everyone.

I thought that it might be helpful to provide a collection of statements from across campus to include in syllabi. I’ll add to this list, but this is a start.

Academic Honesty: shared by Molly Minus, VP, Academic Affairs

The St. Edward’s University Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletins state that a student who is dishonest in any course work by “representing work as your own when it is not a result of such thought and effort” may receive the maximum penalty of a mark of F for that course. Withdrawal from a course is not allowed when an F in the course for academic dishonesty has been imposed. Students caught committing academic dishonesty in this course will be subject to the full range of penalties as described in the Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletins.

Accommodations: shared by Kendall Swanson, Director, Student Disability Services

Student Disability Services coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities (medical, learning or psychological). Students needing accommodation based on a disability should follow the university’s accommodation procedure by contacting Student Disability Services (512-448-8561 or Moody Hall 155).

Hardships: shared by Lisa Kirkpatrick, VP,  Student Affairs

Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify the professor if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess.  From Medium, Basic Needs Security and the Syllabus

Inclusive Community Development: shared by Joi Torres, Director of Diversity and Inclusion

I identify as an ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGTBQIA) community. I am available to listen and support you in an affirming manner, and I welcome feedback for creating a positive classroom regarding pronoun use, language, etc.. I can assist in connecting you with resources on campus to address problems you may face pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression that could interfere with your success at St. Edward’s University.  Please note that additional resources are available through the Office of Diversity & Inclusion in Ragsdale Center Suite 304.


St. Edward’s University is a community with members from diverse cultural backgrounds including: ethnicity, race, national origin, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, and socioeconomic status. The Office of Diversity & Inclusion serves the St. Edward’s University community through facilitation, programming, and advocacy efforts.  This work includes strengthening the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual community and sustaining an inclusive campus that welcomes people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Please note resources are available through the Office of Diversity & Inclusion in Ragsdale Center Suite 304.

Title IX: provided by Lisa Kirkpatrick, VP, Student Affairs

Two different options:

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find the appropriate resources, both on and off campus at https://www.stedwards.edu/campus-services/title-ix-and-preventing-discrimination.

As a faculty member, I am also required by our university to report incidents of sexual misconduct and thus cannot guarantee confidentiality. I must provide our Title IX coordinator with relevant details such as the names of those involved in the incident. Please know that you can seek confidential resources and advocates at the Health & Counseling Center in Johnson Hall, 512-448-8538. To make a formal report, you can contact the Dean of Students Office in Main Building, G 16, 512-448-8408, or go to https://www.stedwards.edu/campus-services/title-ix-and-preventing-discrimination/title-ix-students.You can also make a police report to the St. Edward’s University Police by calling 512-448-8444.


SYLLABUS STATEMENT (educational version customized for SEU)

A Note on Sexual Misconduct

St. Edward’s University is committed to fostering a safe, productive learning environment. Title IX and SEU policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. Consequently, sexual misconduct—including harassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking—is also prohibited at SEU. The university encourages anyone experiencing sexual misconduct to talk to someone about what happened, so they can get the support they need and SEU can respond appropriately. If you wish to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, please contact the Health & Counseling Center in Johnson Hall at 512-448-8538. To make a formal report, you can contact the Dean of Students Office in Main Building, G 16, 512-448-8408, or go to https://www.stedwards.edu/campus-services/title-ix-and-preventing-discrimination/title-ix-students. If you would like to make a police report, you can contact our University Police Department at 512-448-8444.If you have questions about university policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct, please contact our SEU’s Title IX Coordinator, Dr. Lisa Kirkpatrick, Vice President for Student Affairs, Main Building, G 16, 512-448-8777. You can also learn more about Title IX at St. Edward’s University by visiting the website at https://www.stedwards.edu/campus-services/title-ix-and-preventing-discrimination. The university will investigate reports of sexual misconduct and may need to override a request for confidentiality and pursue an alleged perpetrator in order to provide a safe campus for everyone. As a faculty member, I am also required by SEU to report incidents of sexual misconduct and thus cannot guarantee confidentiality. I must provide our Title IX coordinator with relevant details such as the names of those involved in the incident.


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A Quick Look at Resources from Other Universities

Many university websites have links related to teaching or their centers for teaching and learning. In this post, I’m linking to three university-related sites that I find myself going to frequently, as well as sharing links to some Central Texas neighbors.

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation: Carnegie Mellon

The Eberly Center’s collection is strong, but I particularly find the variety of syllabus examples and multiple discipline-based approaches to addressing recurring questions helpful.

Center for Research on Teaching and Learning: University of Michigan

The U. of Michigan Center is extensive and well-staffed; they have expertise to delve into many issues and share research-informed teaching practices.

Center for Teaching: Vanderbilt University

The Guides tab on the Vanderbilt site leads you to approximately 70 different guides on topics ranging from Academic Integrity to Writing Good Multiple Choice Exam Questions.

The CTE is part of a working group with our Central Texas neighbors in order to better serve our communities. Please explore their sites, too.

Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning: Austin Community College

Center for Teaching and Learning: University of Incarnate Word

Faculty Innovation Center: University of Texas, Austin

Teaching and Learning: University of Texas, San Antonio

Office of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship: Southwestern University

Julie Sievers, beloved past Director of the CTE, has culled some strong resources for teaching, learning, and research into one comprehensive guide

As always, please contact me (jennej@stedwards.edu) if I can help.


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Mid-Semester Feedback

Collecting feedback at a mid-point in the semester can provide you with valuable information, at a time when you can do something about it. Depending on how you develop your feedback form,  it can also help your students reflect on their performance in the class and help them make needed adjustments.

There are multiple ways to develop your feedback form, and it can be as quick or as extensive as you would like. For example, this Chronicle of Higher Education piece recommends four questions:

  1. What’s going well?
  2. What needs improvement?
  3. What can the students do to improve the class?
  4. What can the instructor do to improve the class?

In the comments, a respondent offers a “start/stop/continue” framework for asking for feedback.

I’m including a few links to different suggestions for mid-semester feedback. I think that the variety highlights a key consideration of doing mid-semester feedback–it’s important to think about your goals with collecting the feedback. This series of questions from the Faculty Innovation Center at UT provides some guidelines to thinking about both purposes and logistics of soliciting and collecting feedback. You can ask about particular teaching methods or design questions related to your course structure , like the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton or the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning offer.

Another component of collecting the feedback is then sharing and framing the feedback with your classes– the Rice Center for Teaching Excellence highlights some ways to think about using the feedback to help students better understand your approach to the material.

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We want our students to participate in the classes that we teach. Sometimes we have a category on our syllabi called “participation” where we assign a grade; often, we encourage students to speak up–in discussion,  in office hours, and in their assignments. However, sometimes, we run into challenges when thinking about “participation”: what is a fair way to grade students on their participation? how do we encourage students to think about the quality of their participation, not just the quantity? how do we make space for students who may have some difficulty in participating in class? how might we impact the participation in our classrooms?

It is in the spirit of thinking about participation broadly that I offer the following articles that highlight ways to consider critically participation, to assess participation, and to help students recognize the differences between quantity and quality.

Fostering an Environment

Awareness of Implicit Bias

Responding to Students Who Dominate Discussion  (potentially helpful here–a link to a participation rubric)

Daydreaming or Deep in Thought? Using Formative Assessment to Evaluate Student Participation

ISO: A Better Way to Evaluate Student Participation

Thinking about Introverted Students (thanks to Alex Barron for the suggestion)


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Strategies for the first day

The first day of the semester, as many of these articles highlight, provides you with an opportunity to set the tone for the class, to preview the intellectual journey that you will take together over the semester, and to lay the foundation for your classroom community. The following links provide different approaches for the first day and may help you as you prepare for your classes next week.

How to Teach a Good First Day of Class: Advice Guide: Chronicle of Higher Education

Teaching the First Day (s) : University of Virginia

Faculty Focus: The First-Day-of-Class: A Once-a-Semester Opportunity

Chronicle Vitae: The Absolute Worst Way to Start the Semester

SFSU/Center for Teaching and Faculty Development: Top Ten Tips for Your First Day of Class


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Syllabus Creation

Carefully creating a syllabus is a time-consuming and thought-provoking process. From the content–what policies do I need to articulate up front?–to the layout–what would be the best way to showcase this information?–to the tone–how do I develop a document that welcomes all students?–the syllabus often plays a substantial role in introducing students to the class, to you, to the discipline, and to the university.

At times, it can be challenging to be mindful of the syllabus’s multiple functions. Here are are a few sources that might be helpful as you review your syllabus in advance of distributing it.

Kevin Gannon published this guide to syllabi creation in The Chronicle of Higher Education in September 2018. It is pretty comprehensive in nature, and it might help you think through some of the material you include.

Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching provides a great overall primer on syllabus construction. One section of particular note is their collection of policies and statements that can be adapted for syllabus use.

Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Excellence also provides a strong overall look at syllabi, with internal links to examples and further information.

Montclair State University draws on Ken Bain’s work and describes the “promising syllabus,” or one that will help create a “Natural Critical Learning Environment.”

A collaborative group at Tulane University has put together a site called Accessible Syllabus , which prompts professors to consider how accessible a syllabus is in relation to image, text, rhetoric, and policies.

The journal Syllabi offers faculty members the opportunity to submit annotated syllabi for discussion, as well as publishes articles that consider the multiple ways that syllabi are interpreted.

Finally, the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia has shared this questionnaire developed by researchers at JMU and UDC. The questionnaire can prompt faculty to consider how inclusive their approach to a course is by having them answer questions about course context, use of texts (syllabus and course design), and subtext (hidden curriculum).

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Welcome to the Center for Teaching Excellence at St. Edward’s University. We’re happy to have you.

This blog will provide the CTE with another avenue for supporting community members by sharing material related to teaching and learning; by providing resources for course development, design, and assessment; and by complementing CTE programming by offering supplementary material for workshops, discussions, and Faculty Learning Communities.



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