SIP 5.9 Universal Design for Academic Supports

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

untitledEach semester, students arrive in our classes with a wide array of different learning strengths and needs. How do we acknowledge this academic diversity from the outset? What does it mean to be proactive versus reactive about students’ academic and non-academic needs?

Take a SIP of This: Universal Design for Academic Supports

Often when we teach, we wait for problems to arise before addressing them. These problems can be academic, from performance issues such as writing and attendance, to non-academic struggles with mental health, relationships, homelessness, hunger, etc. We know that when these needs are not addressed, it is harder for students to learn. We also know that many students are not aware of the  services available on campus, and/or might not feel ready to access these services without encouragement.

But rather than only reacting to students’ problems, faculty can proactively build student supports into class structures. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Tell students about the Access Center in class, don’t just mention it in the syllabus. Students who experience physical and cognitive impairments might or might not think to seek out these services on their own. And since there continues to be stigma around disabilities, faculty can normalize the experience by reminding everyone that the Access Center helps students with all sorts of disabilities. It is important to say out loud that students who experience depression, bipolar, and other emotional problems can also be supported through the Access Center.
  2. Build visits to the Writing Center and/or Tutoring Center into class assignments . Everyone can improve their academic writing. Students are more likely to work with a tutor if a class assignment requires one or more tutoring sessions. You might even consider a visit to the Writing and Tutoring Centers as a class to ensure familiarity for everyone.
  3. Remind students that the Counseling Center is available for students with short-term and long term counseling needs. Rather than waiting for signs of mental distress to become obvious, let students know at the beginning of the semester that the Counseling Center is there to help all students – even when they are not in acute distress. As with the Access Center, endorsing the Counseling Center in class helps students appreciate that these services can be a part of the everyday student experience when necessary.
  4. Let students know that their fees go to all sorts of services on campus and they should feel free to take advantage of those services–they’ve already paid for them! These services include the above, and also: Academic Advising, Brother to Brother, the Health Center, Immigrant Services, LGBTQ services, Child Care, Campus Safety, Fostering Success, a Food Bank, Veteran Student Services, Conflict Resolution Services, and others.

We want students to self-advocate and take advantage of the services offered on campus on their own. However, if you notice that a student is struggling and may need assistance, you can always file a CARE Report on their behalf. The CARE Team will reach out to the student and follow through, making sure that the appropriate services are offered.

Still Thirsty? Take Another SIP of Universal Design for Academic Supports

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