Students who feel stressed out or have poor time management skills may be more likely to commit an academic offense (Source: Korn and Davidovitch, 2016). Instructors and TA’s can reduce stress and promote time management by implementing course design and instructional strategies that consider student well-being, and by referring students to campus resources.
Course Design Strategies
The following excerpt is from the CTE resource Supporting Students’ Mental Wellbeing: Course Design:
Apply Universal Design principles. Universal Design frameworks are useful tools in designing inclusive and equitable course experiences that support all learners, including those with mental health challenges. For further guidance, see CTE’s Universal Design: Course Design and Universal Design: Instructional Strategies tip sheets. Here are a few strategies that support universal design by building flexibility into the course:
- Rather than having one or two heavily-weighted assessments, provide smaller, more frequent, and low-stakes assessments with feedback so students can learn your expectations and improve on their work.
- Design a series of assessments in such a way that the lowest grade can be dropped.
- Include provisions for late assignments and make-up tests. For example, some instructors include “slip days”, which allow every student in the class a certain number of days to delay an assignment deadline before being given a penalty.
- In seminars and class discussions, provide choice in how students demonstrate participation (e.g., students can write reflection journals on class discussions).
- Recognize your students may have multiple responsibilities on- and off-campus. Provide appropriate challenge for your students to reduce unnecessary stress.
- Avoid very heavily weighted tests (e.g., an exam worth more than 30-35% of their final grade).
Consider the tone of your syllabus and course. Phrases such as “all students must” and “failure to follow these instructions” may come across to your students as unwelcoming and inflexible. You can also include a wellbeing statement in the course syllabus. While not required, Counselling Services provides information you can adapt for your course outline or slides.
The following excerpt is from the CTE resource Supporting Students’ Mental Wellbeing: Instructional Strategies:
- Foster positive relationships with students. You can increase your approachability and social presence by using humour, addressing students by their names, and personalizing examples used in class. You can also invite students to drop by your office hours just to say hello to make office hours more informal.
- Foster a growth mindset. Help your students see that their intelligence and abilities are malleable and changeable with effort, and that failures are opportunities for learning. You can talk about your own challenges and failures as an undergraduate student as well as provide low-risk, low-stakes opportunities for students to fail (and learn from these failures) in your classes.
- Strive to reach all learners. Using a variety of visuals, hands-on activities, group work, individual work, and other ways of presenting content or problems, helps all students to find a way to engage with the content. For further guidance, see CTE’s Universal Design: Course Design and Universal Design: Instructional Strategies teaching tip sheets.
- Give thoughtful and balanced feedback. When giving verbal and written feedback on assignments and assessments, strike a balance between positive feedback (things you can celebrate with them) and constructive feedback (opportunities where they can improve). Include some positive comments in your overall remarks to increase their motivation. Choose your words carefully – what you say matters a lot to students. For further guidance, see the CTE teaching tip sheet Receiving and Giving Effective Feedback.
Mental Health Training Opportunities
Counselling Services offers training programs to increase mental health awareness and support early intervention:
- QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) and Safetalk Training teaches participants to recognize the signs of suicide and refer them to the appropriate resources
- More Feet on the Ground (in person or online) teaches individuals how to recognize, respond and refer those who are experiencing mental health issues
Resources to Refer Students to
- Contact Counselling Services for individual appointments
- Attend a Seminar (e.g. Coping Skills, Alleviating Anxiety)
- Attend a Workshop (e.g. Preventing Depression Relapse)
- Attend Group Therapy (e.g. Overcoming Anxiety, Dealing with Depression, Stress Management)
- Attend Student Success Office workshops – e.g., ‘Get this term started’ and ‘Organizing Your Time’
- Review Student Success Office time management resources – e.g., ‘Backwards Planning, ‘Finding Balance’, and ‘Goal Setting’
- Book Peer Success Coach appointment to reflect on academic goals and develop an action plan that will work for you