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4 Quick Ways to Care for Your (Burned-Out) Students

It's that time of the semester again where students are feeling more burned out than ever. Consider implementing policies or course design changes to help support the well-being of your students. Here are four quick ways: 

1. Use macro- and micro-affirmations in your course:

Two lab students showcasing their project
You may have heard of microaggressions but have you heard of micro-affirmations (because they’re equally as important)? In their SABER/RISE seminar, Dr. Mica Estrada talks about how an inclusive and welcoming classroom is composed of low macro- and micro-aggressions and high macro- and micro-affirmations. Macro- and micro-affirmations are obvious acts and subtle or ambiguous cues of social inclusion, community, and respect for dignity. Some examples include: asking students how they are doing and listening to their responses, asking others for their opinions, recognizing the achievements of others, and just being - ‘nice’. What macro- and micro-affirmations can you introduce into your classroom to build an inclusive environment of kindness and belonging?

2. Institute “protected time” in your course:

Create a course policy that allows students the option for “protected time” two times per course (on formative or in-class assignments). “Protected time” allows students to manage their time and workload in the best way, to remain healthy and (somewhat) balanced. Students can comment on an assignment (not major exams) and type “protected time.” In doing so, the student does not have to complete that assignment and they get full points, no questions asked. This gives students some breathing room when/if they need it during the semester, and allows the students to make informed decisions regarding work/life balance and taking a break.

3. Approach your class deadlines with flexibility:

Stressed out student looking at laptop
Spend less time saying “no” to students about deadlines, and more time implementing flexibility to foster their learning. In her article, Ph.D. Student Tiffany Lewis shares how she uses flexibility to address issues of academic integrity. Instead of sticking to strict deadlines, Tiffany modified deadlines to allow the submission of late assignments until the last day of class. She found this saved her time, created more positive interactions with students, met students’ needs, and most students still followed the structured due dates. Consider implementing a similar policy in your syllabus around late work, such as the 24-hr no-questions-asked late-work policy for up to full points.

4. Be an ally for student mental health:

77% of students report that emotional or mental difficulties hurt their academic performance. Recognize, respond, and refer students in distress. Make sure that students know what resources are available to them and how to access them. Beyond referring, establish class conditions and norms that promote well-being. For example, showcase that sleep is important by making small changes to deadlines. Assignments can be due by midday the next day, instead of “by midnight” or 11:59 pm. This change can reinforce the importance of sleep and avoid signaling an expectation that work should be done into the late hours of the night. Even better - be explicit about the importance of a good night’s sleep!

Want to implement these tips and not sure where to start? Email to connect with an instructional designer to show you how.


Christy Jersin Woods, M.Ed. is an Instructional Designer Associate for the School of Life Sciences at ASU. She leverages technology and inclusive teaching pedagogy to assist faculty in curriculum and design of their courses. She has several years of experience teaching and in curriculum design in higher education and continues to stay up to date in literature and best practices.


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