Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Course Policies and Statements

We encourage you to add the policies below to your syllabus (many of which are recommended by the CMU Faculty Senate). Under each policy, you will find a paragraph with prompts and suggestions, followed by one or more samples.

Academic integrity

One of the most important things you can do to promote your students’ academic integrity is to make it clear in your syllabus that you value academic honesty (and why). This naturally conveys that you take cheating and plagiarism seriously but does so from a positive perspective. In addition, it is important to explicitly define what behavior is and is not permissible in your class because these details often change from class to class and from instructor to instructor.

As you write your course policy, make sure to:

  1. Motivate the policy in terms of the positive dimensions of academic integrity (i.e. this is about enhancing your education and being a trusted member of the CMU community).
  2. Provide links to the University Policy on Academic Integrity and to the general student resource.
  3. Explain what is and is not permitted with respect to collaboration and/or outside assistance for each type of graded work in your course. Note that university policy is that no collaboration is allowed unless specifically permitted by a course instructor, so be sure to highlight where and how your policy departs from the default.
  4. Explain procedures for student acknowledgement of collaboration and/or assistance, when they submit graded work. Note that university policy states that assistance from campus resources (Academic Development, the Global Communication Center, and the Academic Resource Center at CMU-Q) is permitted and nothing else; as course instructor, you can choose to specify alternative boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable assistance. Just be sure to give students a method for reporting collaboration and assistance.

Sample 1: Academic Integrity

Any work that you submit should be your own work (i.e., not borrowed/copied from any other source, including our assigned readings and your classmates). When using other people’s ideas to substantiate your own, please properly cite the original source. We will review proper citation procedures in class, and you should ask for clarification whenever needed. I encourage you to rely on your classmates’ online posts posts – especially their primary sources – when writing your final paper, but you should be expressing your own ideas and not theirs.

Any act of cheating or plagiarism will be treated in accordance with Carnegie Mellon’s Policy on Academic Integrity, which can be found here: Depending upon the individual violation, students could face penalties ranging from failing the assignment to failing the class.

Sample 2: Academic Integrity

Honesty and transparency are important features of good scholarship. On the flip side, plagiarism and cheating are serious academic offenses with serious consequences. If you are discovered engaging in either behavior in this course, you will earn a failing grade on the assignment in question, and further disciplinary action may be taken.

For a clear description of what counts as plagiarism, cheating, and/or the use of unauthorized sources, please see the University’s Policy on Academic Integrity (revised in April 2013): Integrity.htm

I encourage you to work together on homework assignments and to make use of campus resources like Academic Development, the Global Communication Center, and the Intercultural Communication Center to assist you in your pursuit of academic excellence. However, please note that in accord with the university’s policy you must acknowledge any collaboration or assistance that you receive on work that is to be graded: so when you turn in a homework assignments, please include a sentence at the end that says either:

  1. “I worked alone on this assignment.”, or
  2. “I worked with __________ on this assignment.” and/or
  3. “I received assistance from _________ on this assignment.”

Note that providing this information will only serve to help me understand you better: I strongly endorse the use of campus resources like Academic Development and the Global Communication Center, as well as collaborative learning, when it increases your ability to succeed in this class and when it enhances your education and learning.

If you have questions about my integration of the university’s policy into this course, please do not hesitate to ask: my aim is to foster an environment where you can learn and grow, while ensuring that the work we all do is honest and fair.

For more information about Carnegie Mellon’s standards with respect to academic integrity, you can also check out the following link:

Sample 3: Academic Integrity

[Adapted from a Modern Language class]

Students who copy assignments, allow assignments to be copied, or cheat on tests will fail the assignment or test on the first offense, and fail the entire course on the second.

Many students have questions as to what constitutes too much "help" on essays or homework. Of course, you may ask a friend (who may have studied ________ longer than you) if a certain phrase or sentence is correct. You may consult an online dictionary or translator for a word or phrase. BUT, the line between legitimate help and cheating is this: Are you able to reproduce the same information on a test or on your own? If the answer is yes - i.e., you learned something from getting the help and won't make the same mistake again - that's okay. If the answer is no – i.e., you can't identify the parts of speech in the phrase or you can't tell me what the word(s) mean on the spot) then you shouldn't turn in the assignment as your own work. You should, at the very least, indicate those parts of the assignment that are not your own work.

Experienced teachers like me can easily recognize essays that are written by native, near-native, or advanced speakers, are copied from other sources, or are completed using online translation services. I am obligated to uphold the university's policy on academic integrity and I take this responsibility very seriously. If you are unsure about your particular situation, please ask me for clarification BEFORE you turn in an assignment as your own work. Please take the time to read the University’s discussion guide to promoting academic integrity at:

In addition, you can find the University’s full Policy on Academic Integrity here: Integrity.htm

Sample 4: Academic Honesty & Rules of Collaboration

Cheating, plagiarism, and all forms of academic dishonesty are expressly forbidden in this class, and by the university’s Policy on Academic Integrity Integrity.htm. Any form of cheating will immediately earn you a failing grade for the entire course, and I will pursue further disciplinary actions according to Carnegie Mellon’s policies and procedures (see for more information on this).

Here are the things you need to know to ensure that you are working within the constraints of both the university’s policy, and my expectations for this course:

  1. Homework Assignments: You are welcome to work with other students in this class on your homework assignments, but you must (a) list the names of anyone you work with on your assignment, and (b) write up your own solutions to homework problems, based on your own understanding of the material. Some students find it helps to take a half hour break between any work you do with other students, and the time you spend actually writing up your own solutions.
  2. Crib Sheets for Exams: You may work with others to develop your crib sheets, and you may use the same crib sheet as others in the class. Note, however, that it is in your best interest to be actively involved in the creation of any crib sheet that you use, as this process will help you learn and recall the right sort of material, and is therefore likely to contribute to a higher test score.
  3. Research Paper: Your paper should be crafted and written on your own. You may talk with others about your ideas, but you should be working by yourself on the actual outline and content. If you need further assistance with your paper please consider joining me during my office hours, or making an appointment with the Global Communication Center ( and/or the Intercultural Communication Center (, for non-native English speakers). 
    • In addition, you are required to cite all sources you use in your paper. This includes both direct quotations and cases where you use someone else’s ideas. “Sources” include papers, journals, conversations, anything found on the internet, and so on. Basically, if the thought did not originate with you, you should provide a source. If you need some guidance on the mechanics of citing your sources, please see the “Citing Your Sources” document on our Blackboard site.
  4. Campus Resources: You are permitted (and even encouraged) to make use of the academic support services offered by Academic Development ( and the Global Communication Center ( However, in accord with the University’s policy, you must let me know when you use them for a special assignment. Please make a note on any graded work for which you use their assistance, making it clear what service(s) you used. Please also note whether or not you have attended office hours.
    • If you have any questions about what is expected of you in this class, come see me during my office hours, or ask me after class.

Sample 5: Acceptable/Unacceptable Collaboration

[Excerpted from Fundamental Data Structures and Algorithms]

Here are some examples of acceptable collaboration: 

  • Clarifying ambiguities or vague points in class handouts, textbooks, or lectures. 
  • Discussing or explaining the general class material. 
  • Providing assistance with Java, in using the system facilities, or with editing, debugging, and Java tools. 
  • Discussing the code that we give out on the assignment. 
  • Discussing the assignments to better understand them. 
  • Getting help from anyone concerning programming issues which are clearly more general than the specific assignment (e.g., what does a particular error message mean?).

Now for the dark side. As a general rule, if you do not understand what you are handing in, you are probably cheating. If you have given somebody the answer, you are probably cheating. In order to help you draw the line, here are some examples of clear cases of cheating:

  • Copying (program or assignment) files from another person or source, including retyping their files, changing variable names, copying code without explicit citation from previously published works (except the textbook), etc. 
  • Allowing someone else to copy your code or written assignment, either in draft or final form. 
  • Getting help from someone whom you do not acknowledge on your solution. 
  • Copying from another student during an exam, quiz, or midterm. This includes receiving exam-related information from a student who has already taken the exam. 
  • Writing, using, or submitting a program that attempts to alter or erase grading information or otherwise compromise security. 
  • Inappropriately obtaining course information from instructors and TAs. 
  • Looking at someone else’s files containing draft solutions, even if the file permissions are incorrectly set to allow it. 
  • Receiving help from students who have taken the course in previous years. 
  • Lying to course staff. 
  • Copying on quizzes or exams. 
  • Reviewing any course materials (or software) from previous years. 
  • Reading the current solution (handed out) if you will be handing in the current assignment late.

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Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Providing appropriate accommodations to students with documented disabilities is a requirement of federal law. Using our sample policy verbatim is a safe and easy approach. If you want to write your own policy on accommodations for students with disabilities, please be sure to include Catherine Getchell’s contact information and an assurance that you will work with students to accommodate their needs. 

Sample 1: Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, I encourage you to discuss your accommodations and needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at

Sample 2: Statement of Support for Students’ Health & Well-being

Take care of yourself.  Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

[Optional additional language]
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922
Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226
If the situation is life threatening, call the police
On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
Off campus: 911

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let me know. Thank you, and have a great semester.

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Support for Students' Well-Being

Your syllabus can send a positive signal of your support for students' learning and well-being by including a section with recommendations and encouragement for students to take care of themselves and seek help when they need it. This section can also provide students with important information for getting help, including direct links and contact information for support services. And, if you feel so inclined, this section is also a place to directly invite students to reach out to you when they have questions or need help.

Sample 1: Take care of yourself

Take care of yourself.  Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at  Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.


If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922

Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the Police:

       On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323

       Off campus: 911

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let me know.

Sample 2: Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself.  Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. Despite what you might hear, using your time to take care of yourself will actually help you achieve your academic goals more than spending too much time studying.

All of us benefit from support and guidance during times of struggle. There are many helpful resources available on campus. An important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Take the time to learn about all that’s available and take advantage of it. Ask for support sooner rather than later – this always helps.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or difficult feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for assistance connecting to the support that can help. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here for you: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at  Over 25% of students reach out to CaPS some time during their time at CMU.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922

Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the Police:

  •        On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
  •        Off campus: 911
Contributed by Kasey Creswell and adapted by Kurt Kumler and others on the 
Task Force on the CMU Experience.

Sample 3: Healthy Balance

Universities are in general vibrant communities, places of tremendous vitality and richness that offer abundant opportunities for meaningful work and play. This abundance brings with it the challenge of maintaining a healthy, balanced life – a life characterized by productive tension among such competing needs as work and play, sleep and wakefulness, solitude and sociability. All members of university communities – students, staff, and faculty – have the responsibility to promote balance in their lives by making thoughtful choices.

Balanced choices flow from an understanding that human flourishing requires the fulfillment of very real physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs.

Balanced choices flow from an understanding that failure is part of the road to success in all endeavors, whether academic, extracurricular, or social. The diligent pursuit of success in the long term will not preclude failures in the short term. Conversely, unrealistic expectations of success in the short term can compromise both health and long-term success if basic human needs are neglected.

Balanced decision-making flows from an understanding that short-term imbalances are inevitable. Short-term decisions must respond to immediate context, but those decisions are forming longer-term patterns of healthfulness. Balance requires an ability to discern how long an imbalance may safely persist.

Balance results from two skills: avoiding imbalance through careful planning, and managing and containing imbalance when it occurs.

From John Paul Ito's website

Sample 4: Basic Mental Health

As a student, you may experience a range of challenges that can interfere with learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, substance use, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may diminish your academic performance and/or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. CMU services are available, and treatment does work. You can learn more about confidential mental health services available on campus at: Support is always available (24/7) from Counseling and Psychological Services: 412-268-2922.

Adapted from University of Alaska Anchorage

Sample 5: Signs and Resources

The CMU community is committed to and cares about all students. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health problems can help you or others to consider seeking care that can help. These are some signs that may be reason for concern:

  1. Feeling hopelessness, worthlessness, depressed, angry or guilt
  2. Withdrawal from friends, family and activities that used to be fun
  3. Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  4. Feeling tired or exhausted all of the time
  5. Trouble concentrating, thinking, remembering or making decisions
  6. Restlessness, irritability, agitation or anxious movements or behaviors
  7. Neglect of personal care
  8. Reckless or impulsive behaviors (e.g., drinking or using drugs excessively or being unsafe in other ways)
  9. Persistent physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain) that do not respond to routine treatment
  10. Thoughts about death or suicide*

Treatment for mental health problems is effective. More information and resources are located at Immediate support is always available (24/7): 412-268-2922.

* CaPS: 412-268-2922

Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the Police:

  •    On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
  •    Off campus: 911

Adapted from University of Alaska Anchorage

Sample 6: Personal Investment

Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with optimal academic performance. The source of symptoms might be strictly related to your course work; if so, please speak with me. However, problems with relationships, family worries, loss, or a personal struggle or crisis can also contribute to decreased academic performance. CMU provides mental health services to support the academic success of students. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) offers free, confidential services to help you manage personal challenges. In the event I suspect you need additional support, I will express my concerns and the reasons for them, and remind you of campus resources (e.g., CaPS, Dean of Students, etc.) that might be helpful to you. It is not my intention to know the details of what might be bothering you, but simply to let you know I am concerned and that help, if needed, is available. Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do --for yourself and for those who care about you.

Adapted from University of Alaska Anchorage

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Use of Laptops and Mobile Devices in Class

Different instructors have different comfort levels regarding students’ use of electronics in class. A policy on laptops and mobile devices should communicate clearly to students what your expectations are and motivate those choices in terms of students’ learning. 


As research on learning shows, unexpected noises and movement automatically divert and capture people's attention, which means you are affecting everyone’s learning experience if your cell phone, pager, laptop, etc. makes noise or is visually distracting during class.

For this reason, I [insert the language that aligns with your sentiments]

  • ask you to turn off your mobile devices and close your laptops during class.
  • allow you to take notes on your laptop, but you must turn the sound off so that you do not disrupt other students' learning. If you are doing anything other than taking notes on your laptop, please sit in the back row so that other students are not distracted by your screen. 

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Grading Policies

Describe to your students your grading and re-grading policies. How many points are they eligible to earn if their work is late? What is the process to ask for an assessment to be re-graded? How will group work be assessed?

Sample 1: Flexible Grading policy

[George Duncan, Heinz School]

Evaluation of Student Performance

Students are expected to attend lectures and workshops, participate in class, complete memorandum reports on time, and take the examinations.  There will be one term examination and one final examination for each mini semester course.  There will be weekly assignments due.  These evaluative requirements allow the student to perform data analysis in two different circumstances; memorandum reports provide less structured problems with lax (1 week) time constraints.

All scores on exams and assignments will be based on 100 points.  The final grade for each term will be determined by a formula chosen at the beginning of each mini semester by each student subject to the following constraints.

  • Class Participation                                                     5% - 15%
  • Memorandum Reports and Problem Sets                     15% - 30%
    • (lowest grade dropped)
  • Midterm Exam                                                          15% - 30%
  • Final Exam                                                               30% - 50%
    • Total Percentage Must Be 100

Final grades will be balanced between prior criteria and the Heinz School guideline grade distribution.  The following table specifies both the prior criteria, by the relationships between the numeric score resulting from the formula and the letter grade assigned, and the guideline grade distribution.  Discretion in balancing prior criteria and the grade distribution remains the prerogative of the instructor.  (Quality points refer to the Heinz School nine point grading scale.)

Sample 2: Group Assessment

[Frenkel Terhofstede, Tepper School of Business]

A Model for Group Assessment

“Free Rider” Problem.  In the business world you live and die by the results of your team as a whole.  We prefer to give a single grade to all members of a group, but understand they there may be substantial “outlier” behavior by particular group members.  Within 4 days after handing in the final report, hand in a peer evaluation form rating the contribution of each team member.  I expect that 90 percent of these memos will not lead to major changes in grades.  However, if there appears to be consensus that one group member did not pull his or her weight (or alternatively, that one member was crucial to the team’s success) I will adjust an individual’s project grade up or down according to the peer evaluation from.  Please be fair in rating others. A copy of the peer evaluation form is attached to the course packet (see Appendix 1) and can be downloaded from the course website.

Sample 3: Late work and re-grading

[Example from History Class]

Flex Days/Late Work

Due dates for every assignment are provided on the course syllabus and course schedule (and posted in Canvas). Unless otherwise stated, assignments are due on those days. However, I recognize that sometimes “life happens.” In these instances, you may use your allotted two flex days. These days allow you to submit an assignment up to two days late without penalty. You can use these days for any assignment and for any reason. You do not need to provide me with the reason: simply email me and tell me how many of your flex days you would like to use.

Once you’ve exhausted your flex days, then point deductions will occur for any assignment submitted after the deadline. An assignment submitted 24 hours of the due date will only be eligible for 80% of the maximum number of point allotted. Assignments submitted more than 24 hours after the due date will not be accepted. If you experience extenuating circumstances (e.g., you are hospitalized) that prohibit you from submitting your assignments on time, please let me know. I will evaluate these instances on a case-by-case basis.

Re-grade Policy

If you would like me to review a graded assignment, I am more than willing to do so. All requests for re-grades must be submitted within one week of the graded assignments being returned. After requesting a re-grade, please schedule an appointment with me to discuss your assignment and grade. Please allow me a minimum of 48 hours between your request for a re-grade and our meeting. Exceptions to this policy may apply in the case of the final perspective paper due to deadlines for CMU grade submissions. 

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Student Recording of Class

If you do not want your classroom activities recorded, you should explicitly include this policy in your course syllabus with a reminder for students with disabilities that they may request accommodations with the Office of Disability Resources. If you want to allow students to record classroom activities for their personal educational use, you may still restrict further dissemination beyond members of the class.

Sample 1: No Recording

No student may record any classroom activity without express written consent from me.  If you have (or think you may have) a disability such that you need to record or tape classroom activities, you should contact the Office of Disability Resources to request an appropriate accommodation.

Sample 2: Recording Allowed for Personal Educational Use

Classroom activities may be recorded by a student for the personal, educational use of that student or for all students presently enrolled in the class only, and may not be further copied, distributed, published or otherwise used for any other purpose without the express written consent of [insert name of faculty member].  All students are advised that classroom activities may be taped by students for this purpose.


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Attendance and Participation Policy

To convey the importance of attendance and how attendance/participation contributes to the final grade, include this policy in your syllabus.

A statement regarding how many class sessions a student is permitted to miss, including information regarding point deduction for absences (if applicable). 

  1. Frame your policy in a positive way, highlighting the value of attendance and participation for student learning
  2. Outline the circumstances in which an absence would be excused (e.g., religious holiday, college team event, medical or family emergency, etc.), and how unexcused absences will affect the final grade
  3. Explain how and when students should notify you of an absence.
  4. Clearly articulate your expectations around class participation and explain how participation will be assessed as well as how it will contribute to the final grade. A useful rule of thumb: Whenever class participation is worth more than 10% of the final grade, use a rubric for grading and feedback, and share it with students in advance.

Sample 1: Attendance and Participation

[Adapted from Frenkel Terhofstede, Tepper School of Business]

Class Presence and Participation. Class presence and participation points are given to encourage your active class participation and discussion.  You will be rewarded with a perfect score as long as you frequently come to class and actively contribute to the class discussion during recitations and lectures.

Presence:  Although it is not required, most students send their professor a brief e-mail to explain their absence in advance.  Students who repeatedly arrive late to the lecture or recitation will be eligible for 80% of the participation grade.  Please sign the attendance sheet when you come to the class.  Any false signatures will result in zero participation grades for all parties involved.

Participation:  We will devote one entire session to the case discussion.  The instructor’s role during a case discussion is that of a moderator.  When the cases are discussed, we are less concerned with “right” or “wrong” answers than we are with thoughtful contributions which follow the discussion and either add to the debate or move it in a new direction.  If you find it uncomfortable to speak up in class, we encourage you to visit your professor in office hours and work on this skill.

Sample 2: Attendance and Participation

[Example from a history class]

Within the first week of our course, please look ahead and see if you need to miss class for any excusable reason (religious observance, job interview, university-sanctioned event, etc.) and notify me as soon as possible. We may be able to make alternative arrangements for completing assignments. Everyone is permitted one absence without the deduction of points. If you do not use this absence, then the extra points you earn will be added to your lowest score when computing your final grade (i.e., extra credit). If there are extenuating circumstances that require you to miss more than one class session, please come and discuss this issue with me in advance of your absence(s).

Sample 3: General Course Expectations 

[Example from Mathematical Sciences]

Finally, the following guidelines will create a comfortable and productive learning environment throughout the semester.

You can expect me:

  • To start and end class on time.
  • To reply to e-mails within 24 hours on weekdays and 48 hours on weekends.
  • To assign homework that adequately covers the material and meets the learning objectives of the course while adhering to the time expectations for a 9 unit course.
  • To give exams that accurately reflect the material covered in class and assigned in homework.

I can expect you:

  • To come to class on time.
  • To be attentive and engaged in class.
  • To refrain from using laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices during class.
  • To spend an adequate amount of time on the homework each week, making an effort to solve and understand each problem.
  • To engage with both the abstract and computational sides of the material.
  • To seek help when appropriate.

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Study Tips

We encourage you to share a set of study tips with your class. Consider addressing questions such as:

  1. What should students do to succeed in class?
  2. What help can they expect to get during office hours or by email?
  3. Can you provide a rationale (potentially even backed by research) for why your advice should work?

In addition, at the end of the semester you can ask your students what study strategies helped them and then incorporate this input into your next set of study tips, explicitly stating that some tips came from former students of this class.

Sample 1: Study Tips

[From Joel Greenhouse, Statistics]

Study Tips for Stats 201 or How to Use Your Study Time More Efficiently

  1. Read your lecture notes over within 24 hours of lecture (or at least once before the next lecture).
    • Highlight or make marginal notes for important words or concepts. This will help fix ideas and will help you to actively learn the material.  This review takes about 20-30 minutes and really yields a large return.
    • Re-do examples yourself, step by step, with pencil and paper. Examples often look easy when explained in class, but often turn out to be much harder when you do them yourself.
    • Write down questions about things you do not understand. Bring these questions to lecture, lab, and to office hours and ask them.
  2. Readings are assigned for each class.  Read them - if not before the class for which they are assigned then certainly after that class and before the next.  Also, as you read, highlight, re-work examples yourself, and write down questions, as suggested above.
  3. DO HOMEWORK PROBLEMS.  Actively doing problems is the only way to learn the material.  Exam questions will be similar to homework problems.
    • Start early. Do not leave assignments until the night before they are due.
    • Try doing the problems yourself before discussing them with other people.
  4. Use office hours productively.  Ask thoughtful questions about things that you do not understand.  In other words, if you do (1)-(3) above, it will be much easier to isolate what is giving you trouble.  Please take advantage of the availability of office hours.
  5. Review solutions to assignments and exams.  Just because you do not lose points on a homework question does not necessarily mean you fully understand the question and answer.  Also, the solutions should serve as a model for how to write, using proper sentences and paragraphs, discussions and interpretations of data analyses.
  6. We will make every effort to help you learn the course material, but you must also make an effort to utilize the resources that are made available to help you.  Please come talk to us – not only when you are having trouble but also when things are going well.

Sample 2: Where to get Course help

[Used in Computer Science]

How to Get Help

Since the teaching staff for this class is large, you might wonder who you should see about what.  Here are some general guidelines.

  • Clarifications on the homework: If the question does not give away any of the solution, you should post the question on the course discussion bulletin board.  Simply click on the Communication button and follow the link to the Discussion Board.  If you have the question, probably someone else in the class does too, so posting to the bboard will help everybody.  The course staff reads the bulletin board regularly and will try to answer your question as soon as possible.  It is also possible that a fellow student will have the answer and can respond.  If the question requires giving away part of the solution, send one of the TA’s email or see one of the course staff during office hours.
  • You need help on the homework or class material:  Talk with the member of the course staff in the cluster, send one of the TAs or instructors email, or see any of the TAs or instructors during their office hours.  Please don’t feel intimidated about going to office hours.  We are all here to help you.
  • Questions about your grade on a homework: See (or send email to) the TA in charge of the assignment.  Your recitation instructor will know which TA is in charge of which assignment.
  • Questions about your grade on a quiz or test: See your recitation instructor. You can send email or come by during office hours.
  • The course is taking too much of your time: This course is supposed to take, on average, 12 hours per week.  If on average you are spending significantly more than this, we want to know.  Please send one of the instructors an email message telling them.  Sometimes it is hard for us to judge the difficulty of an assignment and your message lets us know when there is a problem.
  • General academic questions: The course staff is happy to answer general academic questions, such as “is it worth it for me to take 15-212?” You should catch one of us after class or recitation, or see us during office hours.

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Statement about Units

You may want to include a statement explaining to students how many total hours of work you expect them to do per week in your course. If applicable, include lab and recitation sections in your calculations. (For full semester courses, the number of units should, on average, equal the total number of hours students spend on your course – both in and out of class. For mini-semester courses, the conversion from units to number of hours per week involves multiplying by 2, i.e., a 6-unit mini should take, on average, 12 hours of work per week in the mini.)

Sample 1: Mini-Class in History

Units and Quality Points

Carnegie Mellon has adopted the method of assigning a number of “units” for each course to represent the quantity of work required of students. For the average student, one unit represents one work-hour of time per week throughout the semester. The number of units in each course is fixed by the faculty member in consultation with the college offering the course. Three units are the equivalent of one traditional semester credit hour.

Hence, a 9 unit semester-long course should require 9 hours of student engagement, on average, including class time; if the instructor requires 3 hours of lecture and 1 hour of recitation, they can expect students to spend 5 hours outside of class engaging in class work. For mini courses that run for only seven weeks, the conversion from units to number of hours per week during the mini involves multiplying by 2. For example, a 6 unit mini course should on average involve 12 hours of student engagement; if the instructor requires 3 hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab, they can expect the students to spend 6 hours outside of class.


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Diversity Statement on a Syllabus

Including a diversity statement on your syllabus can signal to your students your commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive climate for all students (see a review of research and strategies on teaching inclusively). Because a diversity statement is specific to your teaching and course, we encourage you to write your own. When creating a diversity statement for your syllabus, please consider the following questions:

  • How do you, concretely, recognize and value diversity in your classroom? (For instance, do you have systems in place to ensure everyone's voice will be heard? Do you use a variety of examples to illustrate concepts? Do you have guidelines for respectful discussions?)

  • How can diversity – as represented in your discipline, course content, and classroom – be an asset for learning?

  • How will issues related to diversity arise in your course and classroom? And, how will you handle them (ideally) when they do? (For instance, does your discipline or course content explicitly or implicitly raise sensitive or controversial topics related to diversity and inclusion? How might students from different social and cultural backgrounds respond to disciplinary norms?)

  • Do you seek input from your students on classroom climate (i.e., to what extent they they feel included and how)?

  • What relevant resources exist on campus that could be useful to your students (e.g., Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Intercultural Communication Center, Office of Title IX Initiatives)?

A few suggestions to consider about your diversity statement:

  • Although we provide samples below, they are intended to be illustrative of one or more of the principles above, rather than to function as “boilerplate” language.

  • Your statement should articulate to your students why being inclusive matters to you, specifically, and how that relates to your discipline, course, and desired classroom climate.

  • It can be helpful to consider your discipline's history with underrepresented groups, and how disciplinary conventions might work to facilitate or become obstacles to inclusion.

  • After drafting your statement, check whether the rest of your syllabus and course design matches your diversity statement in tone and spirit, that is to say, is also positive and inclusive (see additional resources on creating an inclusive learning environment):

  • Be inclusive by recognizing different types of diversity in your statement.

  • If you would like to get feedback on the statement you crafted, please don't hesitate to contact us for a 1-on-1 consultation (

Sample syllabus diversity statements:

“Respect for Diversity: It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let me know so that we can make arrangements for you.”

  • Source: University of Iowa College of Education

“The topics that we’re covering in this class are often difficult, not just intellectually but emotionally. While I expect there to be rigorous discussion and even disagreement in the course of our class discussions, I ask that you engage in discussion with care and empathy for the other members in the classroom. Aim to disagree without becoming disagreeable. In this class we will not shy away from the uncomfortable. Critically examining and assessing our most basic assumptions and values is not just one of the tasks of philosophy but is an activity vital to living an authentic life. I urge you to have the courage to the uncomfortable in this class. In exchange for your courage, I will work to ensure a classroom environment that supports your taking these intellectual and emotional risks.”

  • Source: Whitman College

"All people have the right to be addressed and referred to in accordance with their personal identity. In this class, we will have the chance to indicate the name that we prefer to be called and, if we choose, to identify pronouns with which we would like to be addressed...I will do my best to address and refer to all students accordingly and support classmates in doing so as well."

  • Source: University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

“‘A university is a place where the universality of the human experience manifests itself.’
-Albert Einstein  In keeping with the spirit of Einstein’s viewpoint, the Department of Communication Studies is committed to providing an atmosphere of learning that is representative of a variety of perspectives. In this class, you will have the opportunity to express and experience cultural diversity as we focus on issues such as: gender and communication in small groups, communication in the multicultural group, and cross-cultural and intercultural
work group communication. In addition, writing assignments and daily activities have been designed to encourage individuality and creative expression. You are encouraged to not only take advantage of these opportunities in your own work, but also, learn from the information and ideas shared by other students.”

  • Source: University of Alabama, Department of Communication Studies

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