Plan Your Course
One of the most effective ways to facilitate student growth that involves sensitive content and potentially difficult dialogues is to adequately prepare before the course begins. Below are a few tips to proactively plan for transformational student experiences in your course, particularly with course areas encompassing sensitive content.
- Review your course content and materials to identify any topics that could potentially result in student distress (i.e., racism, violence, classism, trauma, etc.). These sensitive content areas can help to actually facilitate student growth when thoughtfully and proactively planned. In your course syllabus, include the topics and materials to be covered throughout the course. This will help students identify potentially sensitive content prior to course delivery.
- Connect course content, especially sensitive course content, to course outcomes. Connecting course content to course outcomes helps to bring purpose, validation and intentionality to content, particularly sensitive content. Connecting content to outcomes provides justification for the coverage of essential content, including difficult conversations within the required parameters of the course. Likewise, this connection of content to outcomes significantly reduces the potential for irrelevant, non-essential, and distressing dialogues that can derail an entire course.
The University of Minnesota also encourages the connection of course content to relevant Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and Student Development Outcomes (SDOs).
- Student Learning Outcomes serve to enhance the learning experience of all students across all University courses. Faculty select the SLOs relevant to their course and proactively plan instruction to meet selected SLOs from the following list:
- Can identify, define, and solve problems.
- Can locate and critically evaluate information.
- Have mastered a body of knowledge and a mode of inquiry.
- Understand diverse philosophies and cultures within and across societies.
- Can communicate effectively.
- Understand the role of creativity, innovation, discovery, and expression across disciplines.
- Have acquired skills for effective citizenship and life-long learning.
- Student Development Outcomes are designed to help students become lifelong learners. Student development outcomes emphasize responsibility and accountability; independence and interdependence; goal orientation; self-awareness, resilience; appreciation of differences; and tolerance of ambiguity. Examples of SDOs that might be helpful in connecting courses with sensitive content to outcomes include:
- Works effectively with others, despite differences; can respectfully discuss differences with others.
- Recognizes advantages of moving outside existing “comfort zone.”
- Seeks out others with different backgrounds and/or perspectives to improve decision-making.
- Appreciates the importance of diversity and conveys this value to others.
- Understands and respects the values and beliefs of others.