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Inclusive Teaching for Overall Mental Health and Wellbeing

Colleges have seen that creating an inclusive learning environment is not only for varied learners, but also considers the diverse mental health needs of the students. Here are some strategies to add to your faculty toolbox when planning and delivering instruction. They will especially help students with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges feel supported and valued.  

1. Provide Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate course expectations, assignments, and deadlines at the beginning of the semester. Consistent structures help reduce anxiety for students by giving them a sense of predictability. 

2. Varied Assessment Methods: Use a variety of assessment methods, such as projects, presentations, quizzes, and exams, to cater to different learning preferences and reduce the impact of a single high-stakes exam on a student's mental well-being. 

3. Provide Advance Materials: Provide lecture slides, reading materials, or discussion topics in advance. This allows students with anxiety, or other mental health challenges, to prepare and feel more comfortable participating in class discussions. McGraw Hill products can readily support this strategy.  SmartBook readings, ready-to-use PowerPoints, images, faculty trainings, etc. are all available to support you. 

4. Encourage Participation Choices: Allow students to choose their preferred mode of participation, such as in-person, online, or written responses, to accommodate their comfort levels and needs. 

5. Be Mindful of Language: Use language that is sensitive and avoids stigmatization of mental health conditions. Create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable discussing their challenges without fear of judgment. 

6. Use Trigger Warnings: When discussing potentially triggering content, provide trigger warnings to allow students to mentally prepare and choose how they engage with the material. 

7. Offer Multiple Communication Channels & Schedule Check-in Times: Provide multiple ways for students to reach out to you, such as email, office hours, and virtual platforms, to accommodate different communication preferences. Encourage students to participate in regular one-on-one check-ins. Building rapport allows for a safe space when students might be experiencing challenges.   

8. Provide Resources: Share information about campus mental health resources and encourage students to utilize them. This can help students access professional support when needed. 

9. Empathetic Approach: Approach students with empathy and understanding. Acknowledge that they might have different needs and challenges and be open to making reasonable accommodations. 

10. Normalize Self-Care: Incorporate discussions about self-care, stress management, and mental well-being into your curriculum. Students will appreciate the real approach and knowing they are not alone. 

These strategies can help in supporting you and your students in creating the best environment to learn and succeed.   

About the Author

Sheila Levi-Aland has taught Art & Humanities classes for over 20 years, both in person and online. She received her MA & MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design with concentrations in 19th-century American art & a creative focus in Chinese painting. Her teaching style entails an interactive, hands-on approach to learning about the various periods covered in her courses. Students work with a variety of mediums to explore each genre and present projects that showcase creativity as well as engaged learning. Her goal is to have each student explore and find their passion! You can find her artwork in SCAD's presidential collection, and several private collections, along with her current publications in SECAC.

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