A Preview of Student Voices on Compassionate Teaching Practices and Policies

A few student ideas on compassionate teaching practices and policies, shared by several WashU students speaking at an upcoming event.

Join us for an upcoming faculty workshop on March 7, Student Voices: Compassionate Teaching Practices and Policies, where we invite eight undergraduate students to engage in dialogue with faculty on compassionate practices and policies for their class. These students are excited to share their own perspectives on teaching practices at WashU and discuss compassionate policies in their faculty partners’ courses.

Here, we provide a sneak peek of the event by sharing several student perspectives on compassionate practices that they have personally experienced at WashU. We only provide examples that the students have agreed to share publicly. Additional examples will be shared during the workshop.

Compassion and stress reduction

This workshop is part of an ongoing series focused on Promoting Student Well-Being in Learning Environments. See the guidebook for instructors for more details and ideas for the classroom, organized by four keys to well-being. The sessions this week highlight Compassion and Stress Reduction, which involves using course policies and teaching practices that help reduce stress, actively listening to students, and acknowledging their perspectives. See our Events calendar for additional programming.

Allowing multiple options for participation and assessment. For example, one class I took had in class group assignments 1x/week which encouraged students to attend class. However, the professor made it clear that if someone needed to miss class, he would gladly provide an alternative assignment upon request. In addition, I have found classes that provide various options for evaluations (e.g. paper, exam) helpful. This flexibility in means of participation and assessment makes the class more inclusive of all students’ circumstances, abilities, and learning styles.

Create clear rubrics for students to follow when completing assignments. These allow students to know what exactly the professor expects for full marks.  I have had classes before where assignments had multiple technically correct answers, but the professor was only looking for one specific answer that he might leak out during office hours, etc.  Better guidelines for assignments and less ambiguity would ease this problem.

Make class recordings available on Canvas. Recording classes helps students with a variety of disabilities and/or circumstances access the material. These could include students with hearing loss, processing disorders, or learning disabilities who may not have been able to catch everything when it was presented in class. It also gives students who are sick, have appointments, or are otherwise unable to attend class have the opportunity to view the class lecture and/or discussion.

For intro STEM classes, deliberately state why plagiarism is frowned upon if many positions in STEM are collaborative in nature. Clarify the learning objectives in relation to the restrictions means more people will understand why we must adhere to academic honesty.

Want to hear more from students and work with them on your course? Join us for the faculty workshop, Student Voices: Compassionate Teaching Practices and Policies, or contact Sally Wu at sallywu@wustl.edu to be informed about future opportunities.