Office of the Provost

Faculty Resources for Student Success

Resources on this page:  


As students are dealing with the normal pressures and stresses of college, review talking points and resources available through the Mental Health Awareness Campaign to support your students. ucc resources

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things you can do Now to Improve Student Sense of
Belonging, Engagement and Success

The following items have all been empirically validated to improve student success and equity of student outcomes. They represent high-impact, evidence based practices that you can implement to improve outcomes in your courses.

calendar Activity is low-level of complexity, easy lift rocketActivity is mid-level of complexity, heavier lift
  1. Send a welcome letter before the start of the semester  
  2. Include a statement acknowledging recent events in your syllabus 
  3. Include an Inclusivity Statement in your syllabus
  4. Learn about, and share with students, the campus resources available to students
  5. Share a belonging story in the first week of class
  6. Start the term with a course-readiness check in 
  7. Provide WISE feedback
1.  Send A Welcome Letter Before The Start Of The Semester 

calendar5 key elements of a welcome email:

1. Express your excitement to begin working with your students in the class

2. Share some personal information about yourself

3. Acknowledge the current situation (i.e., the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice) and the challenges facing many students right now

4. Emphasize the ways in which you are working to design a course experience that will be high quality and engaging, but also flexible, given the complicated and changing nature of the pandemic situation

5. Provide some basic information about your course modality and expectations for engagement on the first day (e.g., "log in to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra at 9:30 on Tuesday for our first virtual class together"; OR "I'll see you all in UH 2250 on Tuesday at 9:30 for our first class" OR "I'll see everyone whose last names begin with A-H on Tuesday at 9:30 in UH 2250 and I-Z will log in virtually using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (here are instructions for how to do that). On Thursday I-Z will come to class in UH 2250 and A-H will log in virtually using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.")

Bonus points!
6. Ask students to respond to the email answering 1-2 questions about themselves (Important: You must respond to each response you receive, and in a timely manner. Otherwise, this strategy can backfire.)

You can also create a "Getting to Know Each Other" discussion board in Blackboard, post a few questions there, and ask students to introduce themselves and respond to each other (and you respond to the posts too). 

Sample Welcome Letters

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2. Include a Statement Acknowledging Recent Events in your syllabus, welcome letter, and/or Blackboard course page

calendara.)  We are all going into the next academic year navigating uncharted and challenging waters. Instructors and students alike will be adapting to new, and potentially fluctuating, requirements for physical distancing while also still grappling with the impacts of disrupted learning in the spring and summer terms. Acknowledging the reality of the situation up front will affirm for your students that you see them as whole individuals and recognize that they may be facing challenges. Let them know it is normal to feel anxious, frustrated, or overwhelmed in times of uncertainty and encourage them to seek out support resources if needed.

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3. Include an inclusivity statement  in your syllabus

calendara.)  Now, more than ever, it’s important that we affirm our commitments to equity and inclusivity in the classroom. The Office of Diversity and Inclusivity has recently updated an inclusivity statement that they are asking all of us to include in our syllabi.

b.)  UToledo Inclusivity Statement:

In this class, we will work together to develop a learning community that is inclusive and respectful. Our diversity may be reflected by differences in race, culture, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socioeconomic background, and a myriad of other social identities and life experiences. We will encourage and appreciate expressions of different ideas, opinions, and beliefs so that conversations and interactions that could potentially be divisive turn, instead, into opportunities for intellectual and personal development.

c.) Learn more about the Office of Diversity and Inclusion faculty resources here.

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4. Learn about, and share with students, the Campus Resources available to support students

calendara.)  Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the resources listed under the Academic Support and University Resources sections of the Rocket Restart Student Success page.

b.)  Include basic information on key resources (Learning Enhancement Center, Office of Student Advocacy, Counseling Center, etc.) on your syllabi and in your Blackboard course shells.

c.)  Consider including a Basic Needs statement in your syllabi:

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support (Student Union 2509; 419-530-8852; Furthermore, please contact me if you are comfortable doing so. This will enable me to connect you with an array of resources available on campus.

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 5. In the first week of class, consider sharing a story about your own experiences feeling uncertain about your belonging in college and how you were able to overcome them

calendara.)  These kinds of stories can be powerful ways to assuage concerns that your students may have over their abilities to be successful in college and/or in your class. Research has found that sharing these stories are particularly helpful in supporting historically underserved students (i.e., first generation, lower income, and/or minoritized students of color). You can share your own story, or a story of a past student.

b.)  Here is an example of this type of belonging story: "Before I went to college, I had always made pretty good grades. But my first semester of college was different. I got Cs and D's on my first round of midterms and thought it must mean that I wasn't cut out for college. But the more I talked to my classmates, the more I realized that a lot of them were struggling as well. I reached out to them to study together, and we started to go together to the TA office hours each week to review the concepts we were struggling with. My classes continued to be challenging, but I learned in that first semester that getting a few bad grades doesn't mean you aren't capable of succeeding. I had to work really hard but eventually I was making A's and B's in most of my classes."

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6.  Consider doing a Readiness Check-Up

calendara.)  Many of our students are coming out of less-than-ideal spring learning experiences, and some may need a bit of support to shore up on the foundational knowledge they'll be asked to build on in your classes. Starting the semester with a brief self-assessment for students can help them (and you!) identify areas they may need to review. If you do this, make sure to provide students with resources to review the foundational knowledge and encourage them to reach out if they have any concerns about their preparedness. It's important to make clear to students that the purpose of the check-up is to help them be successful in the class and not to weed anyone out.

b.)  This can also be a powerful tool to help students track their learning over the term, if you refer back to these questions and students are able to reflect on their current levels of understanding.

c.)  Here is a sample readiness assessment tool

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7. Provide WISE feedback

rocketThe key elements of Wise Feedback are:

  1. Honest (but kind) feedback on the student’s work
  2. Statement that you have high standards for students’ work
  3. Assurance that you believe in the student’s capacity to meet those standards
  4. Specific suggestions and resources that the student can use to improve their work

Here’s an example of what this might look like in a large class, where you might provide group-level feedback on an exam:

“I’ve posted a brief list in Blackboard of the most frequently missed questions on the exam and we are going to spend time in class today reviewing them. It is very common for students not to get the grade they wanted on our first exam. Some of these concepts are very challenging and take time and continued work to truly understand. But I know, from your efforts on the quizzes thus far, that you all have the capacity to be successful in this course! We are going to take some time in the next couple of weeks to review study strategies that you can use before the next exam, and I encourage you to work with the tutors in the LEC or come see me in my virtual drop-in hours to discuss any concepts you’re having difficulty with.”

Here’s an example for individual-level feedback that you might provide on a homework or essay:

“While your essay followed the basic requirements of the assignment, these suggestions are intended to help you continue to improve. My goal in this class is to help you significantly improve the fundamentals and style of your writing over the course of the semester. I know from your engagement during class that you have the skills to use my feedback to improve in your next assignment, and I encourage you to visit my office hours next week to review a draft of your second essay before you turn it in.”

 And here’s a link to a few more examples of Wise Feedback.

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search iconTips  for making referrals for students who may need additional support. The resource below provides a simple process, based in evidence-based best practices, to make referrals in a way that increases the likelihood students will access available resources. 

The Art and Science of Making Student Referrals (adapted from Joe Cuseo)

  1. Normalize the experience of needing and seeking help. Explain that help-seeking is a key behavior of successful students, and that all students need help sometimes to stay on track and achieve their college goals. Reiterate the importance of focusing on well-being as a key component of success in college. It is also important to let students know that it’s okay to not be okay right now; that experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety is quite common given our current circumstances, which makes reaching out to available resources all the more important.
  2. Identify relevant resources for the student. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” and then seek out info. Your academic advisor is an excellent resource if you aren’t sure where to refer students.
  3. Describe the goals and services of the referred service. Don’t assume the student already knows its purpose or function.
  4. Personalize the referral – Refer the student to a specific person whenever possible (give them a name), rather than just to an office.
  5. Reassure the student of the helpfulness and capability of the person you are referring them to.
  6. Help the student identify what questions to ask and how to approach the resource person.
  7. Make sure that the person knows where to go and how to get there. Offer to phone for an appointment while the student is in your presence.
  8. If possible, offer to walk with the student to the referred office.
  9. If the student is not willing to act on your referral at the moment, offer to check back with the student at a later point in time
  10. Follow-up the initial referral by asking the student if the contact occurred, how it went, and whether there will be future contact.
  11. Acknowledge the student’s effort reaching out to seek support and using available resources to help them maintain wellness and achieve their college goals. 

To support your efforts in making effective referrals, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the most commonly-used offices on campus. Towards those ends, you may find helpful:

General Tips for Supporting Students in Need:

  • Ask open-ended questions - “what, when, how, who”.
  • Listen actively! Summarize; don’t interrupt.
  • Attend and respond to both content and the affect – the issue, and students’ feelings about or reactions to the issue.
  • Let the student solve the problem. Just ask the right questions, encourage students to think the problem through, and provide info on resources. Doing so encourages the development of self-advocacy skills.
  • Refer to/use your resources. You are not expected to be a trained counselor or advisor.  Just develop a basic understanding of campus resources and assist students in making use of them. 

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Review resources, tips, and talking points on suggested midterm practices which can promote your students' success in the classroom, including strongly recommended practices to do before and after students receive their grades.

  1. Communicate the purpose of midterm grades to your students
  2. Communicate your midterm grading scale, specific to the course
  3. Use formative feedback strategies to gather and utilize student feedback about their learning and your teaching
  4. Ensure key components of transparency in your course and coursework
1.  Communicate the purpose of midterm grades to your students

If you provide midterm grades for your students, it is critical that they understand the purpose and intention behind it. Review these suggested talking points to:

Suggested talking points to explain the purpose of midterm grades to your students:

  • Midterm grades are a check point for your academic performance or progress thus far in the course.
  • Designed so you can review the strategies and techniques you have been using, and evaluate if they are working for you (e.g., completing assignments, meeting course requirements, studying for tests, etc.) 
  • By knowing your midterm grade, you can gauge your understanding of the course material. Are you where you want or need to be? Do you need to improve your grade? What do you need to do to get to where you want to go?
  • Midterm grades are provided at the mid-point of the semester, so you have time to improve your grade (if needed) and access the support from faculty and/or campus resources* (e.g., tutoring, mental health services, etc.). 
  • Midterm can be a great time to recognize your accomplishments, applaud your efforts and current strategies, and to refuel your momentum and motivation!

Suggested talking points to explain what midterm grades are not:

  • In no way can they permanently impact your GPA or academic standing at the university, nor will they guarantee that your final grade will be the same - it is a checkpoint.
  • Midterm grades are in no way an indication, validation, or any type of confirmation that you cannot not be successful; you are not capable; or you do not belong in college. 

*Share the Academic Success and Engagement page with students so they can explore the many resources and/or services UToledo has available to them.

2. Communicate the midterm grading scale, specific to the course

Each course is different therefore each midterm grade is calculated differently. Take the time to communicate how you will configure your students' midterm and final grades.

Before submitting midterm grades in Banner:

  • Communicate to your students exactly how to interpret the midterm grade they will soon receive. Explain what assignments, assessments, projects, etc. you will use to calculate the grade.
  • Explain the total percentage of the final grade that will be reflected in the midterm grade.
  • Clarify the weight of post midterm assessments or assignments which will impact their final grade.

After students receive their midterm grades:

  • Reiterate how to interpret the midterm grade they recently received, and the total percentage of the final grade reflected.
  • Clarify which assignments, assessments, projects, etc. are included in the midterm grade and which will go toward the final grade.
  • Discuss strategies, specific to the course, that students might use to improve their performance, if needed.
3. Use formative feedback strategies to gather and utilize student feedback about their learning and your teaching

A key component of midterm grading is to give students an opportunity to reflect on and gather insight about their own learning. Help students identify learning strategies that work for them, and ones that do not. Seek their feedback to better understand how they learn from the present classroom experience with the goal of identifying areas of improvement with your own teaching strategies.

Review these suggested resources to explore tips and strategies to use formative assessment in your classroom.

4. Ensure key components of transparency in your course and coursework 

Transparency promotes a students’ conscious understanding of how they learn and succeed in the classroom. Students are better able to succeed in their courses when faculty provide clear and transparent coursework (e.g., assignments) and expectations for evaluation. Does your course reflect the key components of transparency? Midterm is a great time to do a "transparency check", as reinforcement of the purpose, task, and criteria of your coursework can help all students be successful.

A transparency check includes these main components:

  • Purpose (why): is the purpose of the coursework clear to students? How are the skills practiced and knowledge gained relevant to students?
  • Task (what and how): do students have a clear understanding of what to do? Do they know how to do it?
  • Criteria (evaluation): do students have checklists or rubrics in advance to self-evaluate? Do students have samples of work that meet your expectations for evaluation?

For additional resources on applying the Transparency Framework, see TILT Higher Ed Examples and Resources

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Last Updated: 2/19/24