UVA Acts: First Day of Class Checklist

As you prepare your syllabus and your first day of class, consider these inclusive teaching practices

Prior to the first day:

  • Audit your syllabus with the Inclusion by Design Survey and make your course inclusive in tone, content, and pedagogy.

On the first day:


  • Signal to students that you value them as individuals.
  • Signal to students that difference is valued.
  • Tell students that they belong in the course.
  • Ask students to complete a “Getting to Know You” questionnaire (this can also be done as a pre-course assignment).
  • Communicate your enthusiasm and explain why the content of a course matters to you.
  • Explain different ways in which content of a course might be valuable for students.
  • Give students an opportunity to articulate their goals for the course.
  • Give students an opportunity to articulate their values as they pertain to the course content.
  • Provide opportunities for students to introduce themselves to at least a few of their peers and converse with one another.


  • Explain the overall structure of the course and your rationale for it.
  • Explain what a typical class agenda looks like and why.
  • Model the type of in-class activities that you plan to do throughout the course.
  • Collaborate with students to generate expectations for dialogue and participation.
  • Explain how to best study and prepare for the course.

Expectation of Success

  • Normalize adversity by sharing your own or previous students’ struggles and how you/they overcame them (generally/anonymously).
  • Reduce stigma around accessing support and/or student resources.
  • Explain how to access student services, including CAPS and SDAC.
  • Explain how to best use time during office hours.
  • Explain why office hours are important/valuable.
  • Articulate that everyone can succeed in the course.

Quick References

Digging Deeper

  • Verschelden, C. (2017). Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing. [Verschelden weaves together research and practice, considering how instructors and universities can reduce the achievement gap among students with marginalized identities.]
  • Yeager, D., Walton, G., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Addressing Achievement Gaps With Psychological Interventions. The Phi Delta Kappan, 94(5), 62. [This brief introduction to psychological interventions considers many of the reasons for and the practices of the CARE framework.]