head shot photos of six faculty authors

From top and left to right: Francesca Bernardi (MA), Crystal Brown (SSPS), Lindsay Davis (HUA), Michelle Ephraim (HUA), Rebecca Moody (HUA), Raisa Trubko (PH)

Six faculty members across four departments in the School of Arts & Sciences have published a study of inclusivity cues in WPI course syllabi. Their article, “Cultivating inclusivity in introductory undergraduate STEM course syllabi,” appeared recently with open access in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.

Their study design included analysis of 163 anonymized syllabi from 1000- and 2000-level courses across six academic years (2016-17 to 2021-22) and across all four schools at WPI. They also used a questionnaire to gather student perspectives on their use of syllabi and the importance they attach to particular syllabus content. Both data sets focused on three practices that promote gender inclusivity and equity: a) listing the instructors’ pronouns; b) use of inclusivity statements; and c) use of course materials authored by women and gender minority scholars.

Consistent with other studies, the authors found that WPI students are affected by course syllabi; 77% of student survey respondents reported that syllabi are important for their overall learning and course experience. They also found distinct differences between students’ hopes and expectations and actual syllabus content for all three inclusivity practices. For example, 75% of student respondents viewed listing instructors’ pronouns as important, while only 10% of the syllabi did so. Students also noted the importance of personalized versus boilerplate inclusivity statements. Their article concludes with recommendations and resources for implementing all three practices in ways that would enhance classroom experiences for all students.

The early stage of the authors’ inclusive syllabus project was supported by a Teaching Innovation Grant awarded in 2021. Since that time, this group has also translated their research into practice by facilitating departmental workshops for faculty, tailored to each department’s particular discipline. Their work has also been reinforced and extended with an Inclusive Syllabus micro-course for faculty and the work of Morgan Pedagogy Champions in 15 departments in 2023-24, initiatives facilitated by Senior Instructional Designer Caitlin Neer. Any individual or department interested in learning more can reach out to Caitlin Neer (cakeller@wpi), the authors, or morgan-center@wpi.