Teaching at the UO FAQ
This FAQ features questions about supporting students, student conduct, accessibility, and other issues that arise related to teaching.
Who Are Our Students?
(1) What teaching choices might help to make all students feel welcome, intellectually acknowledged, and able to succeed in a class?
The Teaching Engagement Program (TEP) recommends practices such as:
- Addressing students by their chosen names and pronouns, including finding ways to use names in large-classes and online fora.
- Knowing students’ goals for their learning and finding ways to connect the concerns of the course to students’ own concerns.
- Clearly conveying the purpose, process for completion, and criteria for evaluation of class assignments before students begin work (transparency).
- Use course materials that represent the racial, ethnic, gender, ability, intellectual, and socioeconomic diversity of the field and the contested and evolving status of knowledge.
Learn more on the Teaching Excellence page and at Teaching Toward Inclusion and Belonging events.
(2) How do I know how my students are experiencing my course and how they perceive the inclusiveness of the learning environment?
UO’s new Midway and End-of-Course Student Experience Surveys ask about students’ perceptions of the inclusiveness of the class. But you don’t need to wait for these survey opportunities—check in with students any time with informal “Minute Papers” or index card gots/needs quick takes, “fishbowl discussions,” or other ways to prompt recalibration or talking about the class with the class.
(3) What common gaps in expectations separate faculty and students? How might they be overcome?
In a recent project called “Dear X,” UO faculty and students wrote letters to each other—to a particular professor or a particular student, or to the professoriate or students at large—to convey something they wished their audience understood. Analysis of hundreds of letters showed great care and appreciation between faculty and students, but also uncovered several “gaps” in expectations:
Communication Gap – letters from both faculty and students highlight the frustration in getting the other side to hear and understand their viewpoint. This problem is central to understanding and resolving the subsequent gaps described below.
“I wish you could remember what it was like to be a college student. I wish you wouldn’t belittle your students with your elitist language.”
Expectations Gap – students and faculty have very different ideas about what they expect from each other and from the experience of teaching and learning. In some ways, this is not a surprise but the extent of the gap and its serious impacts on learning cannot be ignored.
“I don’t understand why you think your class is the only one that I’m taking. No, I can’t read 3 chapters of 50-70 pages each by the next class. You don’t know this, but I barely have enough time to breath, let alone sleep.”
Value Gap – students increasingly question the value of everything they are asked to do, from taking particular courses (such as core education courses), to buying expensive textbooks, to how much they are asked to do outside of class. Again, this may not seem surprising but as the cost of attending our university rises, we are under increasing pressure to address this gap in intentional and explicit ways.
“I wish you did not require expensive books over $100 that we barely used.”
Belonging Gap – students expressed deep frustration at how they connect with the institution and their peers. There was a sense of isolation and feelings of exclusion from many students.
“I wish you would have cared about me as an individual. Too often I feel lost in the sea of people you see as mediocre.”
— NWCCU Demonstration Project Final Report, 15 March 2017
The gaps above suggest serious, ongoing work UO must do. For an individual member of the faculty, a commitment to transparency and to inclusive teaching practices; to collecting feedback about the course, then checking back with students about the “whys” of their teaching choices (for example, after the Midway Student Experience Survey); and an awareness of the total cost of course materials and exploration of free or lower-cost alternatives (UO’s eLearning and Open Educational Resource Librarian would be very interested to discuss this) are all positive steps.
To What Support Can I Direct Students?
(1) How can I connect my student to academic support in a way that normalizes accessing support?
- The Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence specializes in providing a culturally supportive environment that empowers self-identified students of color to fulfill their educational and career goals.
- The Office of Academic Advising guides UO students in pursuing their academic goals. And you’ll see the beautiful new Tykeson building between Chapman and Johnson halls is the new site of pre-major advising and the Career Center; its services are clustered around compelling areas called “Flight Paths” that helps students identify interests that span majors and are linked to co-curricular and career-readiness opportunities.
- The Tutoring and Academic Engagement Center offers tutoring and other opportunities to help students succeed.
- The Office of the Dean of Students assists students who are struggling with any crisis impacting their academics by offering resources, support, referral, and case management to overcome these barriers.
Sharing how valuable you’ve found feedback and idea-sharing like they will find at the Tutoring and Academic Engagement Center, say, or sharing information and positive stories about these resources in class can normalize using them. Talking about struggle as key to learning and asking students to do assignment “wrappers” that ask them to reflect on their work processes can be useful in building students’ study skills and metacognition. Explaining exactly what happens in office hours, even giving suggested weekly office hour conversation topics, can help students decide to use this resource.
(2) What should I do if I have a mental health concern about a student?
Ask your student how they’re doing—note but don’t assign meaning or judgement to the behaviors you observe. Convey your care for the student and offer to connect them to support resources. You can let the student know, for example, that the Accessible Education Center supports students by addressing barriers to access, Counseling Services supports students experiencing stress, or the Office of the Dean of Students assists students in navigating the university system and advocates for their academic wellbeing. An online reporting form can be filled out and will be received by the Office of the Dean of Students Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services program, which may assign trained staff members to reach out to you and/or your students. For concerns that are not emergencies, you can use a general reporting form here https://dos.uoregon.edu/concern.
(3) Am I a designated reporter for incidents of sex or gender-based harassment?
UO employees fall into three categories: confidential employees, designated reporters, and student-directed employees.
Designated reporters are faculty and staff like the university president and provost, deans, vice presidents and provosts, directors and associate directors, etc. These are employees who students would reasonably expect to have the authority to remedy prohibited conduct. They must report a student disclosure of harassment or discrimination to the Title IX Office at (541) 346-8136 or email@example.com or the Office of Crisis Intervention at (541) 346-8194.
Confidential employees, like the Ombuds office, Counseling Services, the Health Center, and Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services professionals usually do not share information disclosed to them with others unless requested to do so by the student.
The majority of UO faculty, staff, administrators and student-staff are student-directed employees. When receiving a disclosure they should offer students information, resources, support, but only report to the university if the student directs them to do so. Student-directed employees must also fill out the form found here (PDF), and consult with the Dean of Students Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services Program by calling 541-346-1200.
Key information and disclosure conversation guidelines are available from the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance:
How Should I Design for Accessibility?
(1) How can I encourage students to communicate directly with me if they encounter barriers toward their full participation in my course?
Every University of Oregon syllabus needs to include a statement encouraging students with disabilities to make their needs known early in the term and to inform students that the Accessible Education Center is a source of support. This statement along with a verbal announcement at the beginning of the term helps the university to meet our obligation to make sure that students are aware of the available support and opportunity to request disability-related accommodations from the institution. This also provides an opportunity to foster a welcoming environment for all students and to acknowledge the range of diversity in the classroom.
Guideline syllabus statement:
The University of Oregon is working to create inclusive learning environments. Please notify me if there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in disability-related barriers to your participation. You are also encouraged to contact the Accessible Education Center in 360 Oregon Hall at 541-346-1155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) By what process am I notified if a student in my class should receive accommodations?
- You will receive a confidential notification letter via email.
- This triggers your legal responsibility to provide the listed accommodations or contact AEC to discuss further.
- It is helpful to offer to meet with the student to discuss possible barriers they might be experiencing
If the student’s accommodations can be met effectively by you, that is preferable. If testing accommodations cannot be provided in the classroom, the student can take their exams through the Accessible Education Center (AEC). Learn more about that process on the AEC website.
(3) What are typical accommodations?
Academic accommodations include exam/quiz adjustments to time, format or environment; sign language interpreting; classroom relocation; adaptive technology; modification to policies and procedures. The University of Oregon has a flexible and individualized approach to accommodations and strives to create inclusive learning environments for all students by incorporating principles of Universal Design for Learning.
(4) What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?
The term “universal design for learning” is defined by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. It refers to “a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that:
- (A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged;
- (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.
The Accessible Education Center provides a helpful overview of UDL here.
(5) What are specific teaching choices that can support all students, including those who might experience a disability?
Consider class climate, structure, and “multiple modes” of engaging students, of representing information to students, and multiple modes for students to demonstrate skills and knowledge.
Class climates with inclusive, welcoming teaching practices matter to all students.
Providing structure is a key tenet of universal design in classroom settings. Examples include:
- Providing students with learning objectives for the class session.
- Giving a lesson outline at the beginning of class, verbally and visually (e.g., on board, slide, handout).
- Employing methods (activities, examples) broken down into steps to scaffold student learning.
- Providing written instructions and roles—advocate, skeptic, connection-maker, etc—to structure in-class group activities.
- Using the Transparent Assignment Template: assignment sheets that state the purpose of an assignment (the knowledge and skills students are practicing—in relevant, plain language); the process for completing the task; and the criteria for success.
"Multiple modes" can mean:
- Engaging students through multiple modes, as no one mode will serve all students. Examples include using structured small and large group discussions, routinely inviting participation in Zoom's "chat" (if remote), and using asynchronous participation tools like Canvas Discussions. Learn more about modes of engagement from the nonprofit that created the UDL framework here.
- Representing information in multiple modes—for example, giving verbal and visual instructions; offering visual cues when key concepts are invoked; pairing expository text with illustrations and diagrams, etc. Learn more about modes of representation from the nonprofit that created the UDL framework here.
- Designing for multiple methods of expression so students have the best chance to practice, and to demonstrate, what they know. Examples include offering different kinds of assignments across the course and offering students options for small (or large) individualization of assignments. Learn more about multiple methods of expression from the nonprofit that created the UDL framework here.
We also recommend exploring the AEC's Faculty and Instructor Tools pages for additional guidance, and we invite you to connect with the TEP team if we can support universal design in your classes.
What Capabilities Does My Classroom Have, and What Online Support is Available?
(1) What does my classroom look like? What technology is available in it?
You can look up your classroom online: Type “classrooms” in the UO search engine or go to the classrooms page on the UO Libraries' website to see the room arrangement and technology available in the room.
(2) What support is available to help me master UO’s learning management system, Canvas?
Canvas enables faculty to create and deliver rich course content, facilitate online discussions, assess student work, track student performance, and provide feedback to guide student learning. UO Online and UO’s Information Services partner to provide Canvas support. Faculty can contact UO Online for Canvas assistance here.
See the Office of the Provost workshops page for upcoming workshops.
How Might I Respond to Student Conduct Issues?
(1) I suspect a student of academic misconduct—what do I do?
The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS) is always available to help and advise you: 541-346-1140, email email@example.com, or visit Oregon Hall Suite 185.
Cases may be resolved by faculty themselves or, if the student contests responsibility or isn’t responsive, by SCCS.
Typical Protocols for Academic Misconduct Reporting and Adjudication
- Responsible instructor reviews documentation and suspects academic misconduct has occurred.
Faculty notifies the student of the suspicion within 5 working days of discovery and attempts to schedule an initial meeting with the student(s).
Student has an opportunity to review the allegation and accept or deny responsibility and the grade penalty.
Faculty submits “Academic Misconduct Report Form” online and includes all relevant documentation within 14 days (excluding weekends, holidays, and academic breaks) of notifying student.
Faculty is unable to meet with the student regarding the allegation of academic misconduct (i.e. end of term). Faculty notifies student they will be forwarding the report of Academic Misconduct directly to SCCS. (*Sample notice included in “Faculty Resources”)
- Scenario A: Not Faculty Resolved: Student contests responsibility or student does not respond to notice
Upon receipt of the report from the faculty, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS) sends a Notice of Allegation, which includes the alleged violation and a request to meet with SCCS to resolve the issue.
Student schedules and attends an administrative conference with SCCS to respond to the allegation.
Student does not respond to the notice and a decision is made in default, without their participation or input.
Decision: Student is found responsible (based on a preponderance of the evidence) for Academic Misconduct. Grade penalty is applied and University sanctions are issued, as appropriate.
Decision: Student is found not responsible (based on a preponderance of the evidence) for Academic Misconduct. No sanctions. Grade penalty may NOT be applied.
SCCS sends a formal decision letter to the student including the above information. SCCS sends confirmation to faculty, as well.
- Scenario B: Faculty Resolved: Student admits responsibility and accepts faculty outcome
Upon receipt of the report from the faculty, SCCS sends the student a formal decision letter, which includes the conduct violation, the grade penalty, and any University sanctions. SCCS sends confirmation to faculty, as well.
(2) What if I am being undermined in my classroom by students who don’t seem to respect my expertise or the work of the class?
This is difficult, and research indicates that women and faculty of color are more likely to experience “incivilities” in the classroom and underestimation of their expertise. There is some evidence that pedagogies that decrease student anonymity and increase instructor immediacy have a positive role to play—the Teaching Engagement Program (TEP) would be very interested to strategize with you about this and can help you think about how to conduct a conversation with the student during office hours. We also can be present in class as a supportive observer or even class participant. The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards can ask students to come in to talk about their classroom behavior even in the absence of an explicit conduct violation—they may be able to help uncover distress at the root of these student behaviors or be a third party that can help the student think about the impact of their actions.
(3) I’m concerned about leading discussion on sensitive or controversial topics—how can I prepare my students to do this well?
In addition to setting and returning to discussion guidelines, faculty can help students find their footing on new ground by articulating a sense of the goal or purpose of individual class discussions (i.e. why you think it’s important for the class to address an issue) and establishing a common starting point (like a passage from a text, image, scenario, or data set).
Faculty and GEs teaching controversial issues should be well prepared to address misinformation (what are the rates of incarceration by race in this country; how does gender affect pay); to name the tools their discipline or field of study offers the group as it approaches difficult questions (in other words, to prompt students beyond “what do you think?” toward “how does X shed light on Y?” or “what does the text challenge us to see?” or “what questions would a political scientist ask about this?”); and to actively facilitate the conversation. We may need to prompt students to clarify their positions, depersonalize potentially offensive comments, and validate or challenge comments.