Michigan Diag during winter

As we move into winter term, with its mix of intense academic demands and challenging weather, it's a good time for instructors to prepare to respond or reach out to students experiencing mental health challenges. Whether they are grappling with anxiety, depression, or other sorts of distress, students' mental heath struggles often become apparent to teachers when they take a toll on their academic work. And students in distress sometimes turn to teachers for help because they see them as their most immediate support network.

As U-M’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) states in their guide for instructors on Helping Students in Distress, "your role can be a positive and crucial one in identifying students who are in distress and assisting them in finding the appropriate resources." 

What should you do if you know or suspect a student is in need of your assistance? Detailed guidance can be found in the CAPS guide above or at the University's Mental Health Resources webpage for faculty and staff. In general they recommend, if a student comes to you, that you listen attentively and without judgment. You can help the student develop an action plan for addressing their main concerns, especially with coursework, but remember that it's not your role or responsibility to provide professional help for students facing mental health challenges. You can support students by referring them to relevant campus resources. Depending on the circumstances, these might include:

What are effective ways to get to know my students and create a positive learning environment from the very beginning of the term? How can I pique students' curiosity about the course material? How can I set student expectations for active engagement in class?

Students in a classroomThese are common questions as teachers prepare for the first days of class, an important time for setting the tone for what is to come in the term. CRLT links to many resources that can help faculty and GSIs think carefully about getting the most out of the first days. These include research on why classroom rapport is useful for student learning, and specific strategies for building relationships and communities in the early days and weeks of a course. Other resources provide suggestions for introducing course material and communicating expectations. Find more first days resources on this list, or click on the tags below for pages that include links to materials we use in our new teacher orientation programs. 

Other CRLT resources about inclusive teaching provide specific strategies for ensuring that you foster learning environments that include and enable all of your students from the very beginning of the term. Inclusive teaching can begin before you ever walk into a classroom, as emphasized by these pages on course design and syllabus design.

As always, CRLT consultants are also available to work one-on-one with instructors. We're here to help you get your classes off to a great start.

TIP logo Are you aware of a U-M colleague who has recently developed an innovative teaching tool or method? Perhaps you've admired a faculty member's creative use of technology in the classroom, original approach to facilitating student collaboration, or new strategies for replicating the advantages of a small course in a large lecture hall. Or maybe you're proud of a teaching innovation you have developed yourself. If any of these is the case, consider submitting a nomination for the 2015 Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize (TIP). Up to five prizes of $5000 will be awarded. 

Now in its seventh year, TIP has honored a range of remarkable teaching innovations, from immersive off-campus experiences, to dynamic interactions in campus classrooms, to effective strategies for supporting independent student learning. In this 4-minute video, you can learn more about last year's 5 TIP winners.

You can find additional video and learn more about all of the past winners here. Complete information about the nomination and selection process can be found on the TIP page in the Grants & Awards section of our website. Nominations are due on February 2, and the awards will be announced in May at the annual campus-wide technology conference, Enriching Scholarship

GSITO participants talking in pairs

Before each fall and winter term CRLT hosts the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching Orientation to prepare new GSIs to teach at UM.  Our winter orientation will be held on January 6th in the Michigan League from 8:30 am-4:30 pm. The orientation provides opportunities for new GSIs across campus to think deliberately about how to engage and support the learning of every student in their classes. It features a range of activities and sessions that highlight resources and strategies to help participants succeed as teachers at U-M. These include:

  • Performances by the CRLT Players that invite participants to reflect upon challenges and strategies for including all students equitably in classes in every discipline
  • Concurrent sessions addressing the full gamut of GSI teaching responsibilities in and out of the classroom: e.g., facilitating discussions and groupwork, evaluating student writing, and teaching effectively with technology
  • Workshops on inclusive teaching in the first weeks and beyond 
  • Practice teaching with feedback from new GSIs in other fields.

This winter the Engineering and Central Campus teaching orientations will be combined into one event. For more information, see the GSITO registration page