First Day Toolkit
The First Day Toolkit is a suite of resources designed to help institutions engage instructors in revising their syllabi and other messages that students receive on the first day of class to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment. By fostering a positive student experience in the classroom, institutions can increase a student’s likelihood of persevering through academic challenges to graduation.
The Student Experience Project has created an online course module to help instructors create a growth mindset culture and convey that students belong in their course through the syllabus and other conversations about course expectations that tend to occur on the first day of class. This toolkit provides tools and materials that campus leaders can use to engage instructors with the module and make changes to their courses that can improve student success.
The online module was piloted by nearly 300 instructors at 16 public research universities.
- 93% of instructors surveyed would recommend the module to a colleague
- 90% of instructors surveyed indicated the module helped them convey a growth mindset in their syllabus
Additionally, a number of syllabi that were revised using recommendations from the module were reviewed by students and compared to the original versions of the syllabi. Students indicated that the revised syllabi were both clearer about course expectations and more supportive of student’s abilities to succeed in the course.
Online Module and Syllabus Review Guide for Instructors
When students read a course syllabus, they are not just wondering, “Which textbook should I buy?” and “When is the midterm?” They are also wondering, “Can I succeed in this course?” and “Do I belong in this field?” The messages students receive early on can shape their perceived answers to these questions and impact the way they experience a course. They can even influence whether students disengage and drop the course when it gets challenging, or stay motivated and persist to earn the credit. Using an evidence-based approach to syllabus development and messaging, instructors can ensure that students’ earliest experiences in their courses promote a sense of belonging and self-efficacy that will support equity, belonging, and growth.
The online module, Your Syllabus as a Tool to Promote Promote Student Equity, Belonging, and Growth, consists of a number of recorded videos to demonstrate practical tips for developing syllabi, as well as activities and a Syllabus Review Guide that will help instructors apply these concepts to their own syllabi.
First Day Practices
Faculty can utilize additional practices to create a supportive learning environment on the first day of class, such as:
Resources for Administrators
These tools are designed to help campus administrators and leaders engage instructors with the module.
The First Day Toolkit was created by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), College Transition Collaborative (CTC), and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) as part of the Student Experience Project. Christine Logel, Jen Coakley, Kathryn Boucher, Samantha Levine, Mary Murphy, Krysti Ryan, and Chaghig Walker contributed to the toolkit’s development. We also acknowledge the contributions from institutions in the Peer Learning Network and the SEP University Partners who piloted and refined the toolkit.