What Do Students Perceive from the Syllabus? The Importance of Syllabi to Communicate Belonging and Promote Engagement

Jessica Sunds, Sydney Rohrbach, Alicia Drais-Parrillo
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Abstract


Syllabi are introductions and, like first impressions, can affect one’s outlook. The current study is part of a larger evaluation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in academic spaces; here we hoped to determine if research aligns with students’ perceptions. Prior studies suggest syllabus qualities that signal belonging and increase engagement, especially for underrepresented students. Participants rated syllabi from different years. We anticipated that 2015-16 syllabi, before DEI objectives were enacted, would have fewer identity safety cues, less emphasis on inclusion, and focus less on diversity concepts compared to 2021-22 syllabi, after DEI objectives were prioritized. The latter were rated as more inclusive, more engaging, promoting greater belonging, and having a more approachable instructor. In comparisons by group, POC and white students did not differ in their perceptions of syllabi from 2015-16 nor did traditional and non-traditional students. Perceived changes from 2015-16 to 2021-22 syllabi revealed differences by social identities. White students perceived greater changes in instructor attributes and belonging over POC students, and traditional students rated greater changes in belonging, engagement, and instructor attributes than non-traditional students. These outcomes suggest that our DEI efforts are not being perceived equally among students, which ultimately may affect student motivation and outcomes.

Keywords


Syllabi, Belonging, Engagement, Student perceptions

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.46328/ijonse.174

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International Journal on Studies in Education (IJonSE) - ISSN: 2690-7909

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