It's in the syllabus … or is it? How biology syllabi can serve as communication tools for creating inclusive classrooms at a large-enrollment research institution

Logan E. Gin, Rachel A. Scott, Leilani D. Pfeiffer, Yi Zheng, Katelyn M. Cooper, Sara E. Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Syllabi are usually required by institutions of higher education and often are the first exposure that students have to a particular course. Instructors can use syllabi as a mechanism to convey important information to students. Moreover, a syllabus can be considered a tool to create inclusive biology courses by transmitting information to all students equitably. In this study, we examined 75 biology course syllabi collected from a research-intensive institution to examine what content instructors include. We reviewed the syllabi to determine the presence or absence of elements and assessed to what extent there were differences in the presence or absence of certain syllabus elements based on course level and course size. We found that instructors are most likely to include content about course expectations and least likely to include content about creating positive classroom climate on their course syllabi. Despite university requirements, many instructors did not include the university-mandated criteria and they did not include elements that could increase how inclusive students perceive the course to be. However, instructors more often included inclusive content when it was required by the university. We also found that students enrolled in upper level courses and small enrollment courses are provided with less content on their syllabi, which we would then interpret as a less inclusive syllabus. We discuss the implications of how these results may differentially impact students in these courses and how the syllabus can be a tool for creating more inclusive college biology courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-240
Number of pages17
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

Keywords

  • capital
  • cultural capital
  • hidden curriculum
  • inclusive
  • syllabi
  • syllabus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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