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Instructor Essentials

Welcome to Instructor Essentials! UC Merced is a special place and we hope you enjoy teaching here. To make your time teaching as simple as possible, we have compiled UC Merced guidelines, policies, and procedures to help you navigate your role as an instructor, as well as resources for course setup and student success. As you move through these curated resources, materials, and examples, you may have questions or need further assistance. Please feel free to reach out to our pedagogy or technology consultants or email one of us directly

UC Merced's Instructor Packet

About UC Merced

UC Merced is a dynamic University campus that opened in September 2005 as the tenth campus of the University of California system and the first American research university in the 21st century. In keeping with the mission of the University to provide teaching, research, and public service of the highest quality, UC Merced offers research-oriented and student-centered educational opportunities.

Who are our students?

UC Merced students are some of the best and brightest students from around the country, and they are integral to the university’s mission of education, research, and public service. In order to maximize engagement, it is important to consider their experience. 

The majority of UC Merced students are low-income, underrepresented (and underserved) minorities, and the first in their families to attend college.  We serve students who are undocumented and some who are battling mental and/or physical health challenges. Often, our students face multiple barriers to success including:

  • A general absence of family knowledge regarding  “how to succeed in college;"
  • Unfamiliarity with personal and academic resources available and how to access them;
  • Imposter syndrome: feeling like they don’t belong in college;
  • Financial burdens: they might need to work on or off-campus, and have trouble affording course materials.
  • Check out this video for perspectives on the first-generation experience.

Principles of Community

  • The University of California, Merced, is a public, land-grant institution created to serve the communities of the San Joaquin Valley, the State of California, the Nation and the World through excellence in education, research and public service. These principles reflect our ongoing efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures lifelong learning and growth for all of its members. We encourage every member of the UC Merced community to join us in our collective pursuit of these principles.

    • We recognize and celebrate the identities, values, and beliefs of our community.

    • We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person while cultivating a campus climate rooted in mutual respect and compassion.

    • We uphold the right to freedom of expression and encourage a culture of dialogue, understanding, and civility in all interactions. We seek to create a campus where a rich tapestry of ideas is shared, collaboration is embraced and innovation is promoted.

    • We pursue excellence in teaching and learning through contributions from all community members fostering a culture of open exchange.

    • We promote opportunities for active participation and leadership through our communities.

    • We champion civic engagement, environmental stewardship, research, and teaching that connect theory and practice to learning and doing.

    • We take pride in building, sustaining, and sharing a culture that is founded on these principles of unity and respect 

  • The UC Merced Principles of Community were developed by the Chancellor’s Advisory Council for Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion in collaboration with the campus community. These principles were issued on March 25, 2014. Download the Principles of Community.

UC Merced Instructor Policies and Expectations

  • As teachers, faculty, lecturers, and instructors:

    • encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students;

    • hold before their students the best scholarly and ethical standards;

    • demonstrate respect for students as individuals;

    • adhere to their roles as intellectual guides and counselors; and

    • protect their students’ academic freedom.

  • Faculty Code of Conduct

  • The Faculty Code of Conduct (APM-015) delineates the rights and responsibilities of all UC faculty. Please refer to it for information on the University’s commitment to academic freedom as well as for standards of professional conduct.

  • General Expectations and Teaching Load 

  • Instructors are to meet with classes regularly, post and keep regular office hours open to students without prior appointment, hold examinations as scheduled, evaluate student work in a timely manner and ensure that grades directly reflect course performance.

    • Faculty Teaching Load: The teaching load varies among schools. New appointees may wish to consult their Dean’s Offices regarding the specific course loads they will be expected to carry.

    • Lecturer Teaching Load: The instructional workload is established and maintained in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding for the NonSenate Instructional Unit (MOU). The full-time (100%) instructional workload standard for Lecturer appointments is six (6) instructional Workload Courses (IWCs) over two (2) semesters or the equivalent. A full-time course load for a Lecturer teaching writing and/or foreign language courses will not exceed five (5) instructional workload courses over two semesters. 

  • UC Office of the President Statement of Ethical Values

  • Members of the University of California community are committed to the highest ethical standards in furtherance of our mission of teaching, research, and public service. We recognize that we hold the University in trust for the people of the State of California. Our policies, procedures, and standards provide guidance for the application of the ethical values stated below in our daily life and work as members of this community. For more information, see the UCOP Statement of Ethics.

    • We are committed to:

    • Integrity

      • We will conduct ourselves with integrity in our dealings with and on behalf of the University.

    • Excellence

      • We will conscientiously strive for excellence in our work.

    • Accountability

      • We will be accountable as individuals and as members of this community for our ethical conduct and for compliance with applicable laws and University policies and directives.

    • Respect

      • We will respect the rights and dignity of others.

Campus Compliance, Advocacy, and Climate

  • Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

    • UC Merced's Diversity Statement

      • Local indigenous people, including the Yokuts and Miwuk who understand the earth as a place for everyone, first inhabited the land where UC Merced is located. When we address diversity on this campus, we do so boldly, daring to look forward and backward, imagining diversity’s demand for the 21st century and the importance of diversity in addressing past wrongs, reaffirming humanity, and ensuring a reconciliatory path of redress for the future. The most prominent path on our campus is called Scholars Lane. By day, you can see, hear and witness the embodiment of our diversity through campus community members making their way across campus framed by the slopes and peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

      • At UC Merced we steadfastly uphold the concepts expressed in the University of California Diversity Statement including, “the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and more.”

      • We affirm that a diverse campus furthers our mission to create, interpret, and disseminate knowledge and values. The manifold diversity of our community encourages each of us to reflect on intellectual and cultural orthodoxies, and thus stimulates the creativity at the heart of our academic mission as a research university. We take pride in serving a large population of first-generation college students, including the broad representation of background on our campus as a Hispanic (HSI), Minority (MSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander (AANAPISI) serving institution. As a common goal, we will work together to ensure all members of our academic community reflect the multiplicity of identities in our region.

      • Our commitment to diversity will foster our ability to thrive in a complex world.

      • Approved March 15, 2019, by the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion (CCCI) at UC Merced.

  • Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education (CARE) Office

  • We Educate

    • CARE provides prevention education for the UC Merced community to achieve an environment free from the threat of sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking.

  • We Advocate

    • We provide free, confidential, and knowledgeable support for those impacted by sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking.

  • We Empower

    • We encourage the UC Merced community to step in and speak up against a culture that allows sexual violence, dating/ domestic violence, and stalking to occur.

  • See our Website at: For training opportunities or other questions contact the CARE Director, Yesenia Curiel, at (209) 233-1746.

  • The Campus Advocate is a confidential resource and consultant from Valley Crisis Center. The Campus Advocate is available to meet on and off-campus with students, staff, and faculty. You may contact the Campus Advocate at (209) 386-2051 or the 24-hour crisis hotline through Valley Crisis Center at (209) 722-4357.

  • Ethics, Compliance, Audit and Risk 

    • The Office of Ethics, Compliance, Audit and Risk provides education, guidance, and resources to support the campus in creating, promoting and maintaining an ethical, compliant, safe, and fair learning and working environment.

    • The Office is committed to protecting and preserving university resources and mitigating institutional risk of adverse exposure by fostering collaboration, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of cross-campus processes, and empowering the campus community to express ideas that provide opportunities for continuous improvement.

    • Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination

      • Monitors and oversees UC Merced’s compliance in these areas and related laws in the prevention of harassment and discrimination, including the coordination of education and training activities and the response to Title IX complaints. Students, faculty, administrators, staff, or others who participate in UC Merced’s education programs, employment opportunities, and activities who have questions, concerns, or complaints about discrimination, hostile work environment, sexual violence, or sexual harassment are encouraged to contact the Title IX Officer. The Title IX Officer has the primary responsibility of ensuring that UC Merced is in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. This includes issues involving sexual violence and sexual harassment as well as discrimination and a hostile work environment.

      • The Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Form can be used to file a complaint of harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), genetic information (including family medical history), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or service in the uniformed services. The Title IX Officer can be reached at (209) 285-9510.

      • For more information, please see the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination

  • Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

  • The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (“CANRA”), codified at California Penal Code §§ 11164-11174.3, requires that employers of Mandated Reporters (as defined in the Act) promote identification and reporting of child abuse or neglect. It is the policy of the University of California to comply with its obligations under the Act; to require that all University employees and administrators who are Mandated Reporters make required reports to child protection or law enforcement agencies; and more broadly to encourage all members of the University community who observe, have actual knowledge of, or reasonably suspect child abuse or neglect at a University facility or perpetrated by University personnel to promptly report the concern to appropriate external and University officials.

Academic Honesty, Conduct, and Reporting

  • Student Code of Conduct

  • Honesty, fairness, and respect are essential to learning, teaching, and research, and to maintain a productive and safe campus environment. As members of our academic community and of society at large, UC Merced students are held to the high standards of conduct set by the University of California and the campus, as well as to general requirements of law. UC Merced students are expected to uphold these standards in all their academic and extracurricular activities. UC Merced conducts procedures are intended to promote reasoned, fair, and impartial consideration of suspected student misconduct, with respect for the rights and interests of all concerned: the accused student, the reporting party, and the University. See UC Merced's full policy on student code of conduct for more information.  

  • Academic Honesty Policy

  • Academic integrity is the foundation of an academic community. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, altering graded examinations for additional credit, having another person take an examination for you, or facilitating academic dishonesty or as further specified in this policy or other campus regulations. See UC Merced's full policy on Academic Honesty and Misconduct for more information. 

  • Reporting Student Misconduct

  • To initiate a report on student misconduct, file an Information & Incident Report.

  • For tips on improving academic integrity, reducing plagiarism, or for more information on any of these policies and procedures see the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR).

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

  • The following information is provided to you from the UC Merced Office of the Registrar. 
  • Overview

  • To be allowed access to student records, you must carefully review the material presented here. Maintaining confidentiality of student records is everyone's responsibility, whether you are faculty, staff, or a student. Why? Because it's the right thing to do and, more importantly, it's federal law.

  • The tutorial is designed to give you base-level knowledge of the rules governing the release of student information. After you've carefully reviewed the tutorial, test your knowledge by taking the online FERPA quiz.

  • What Is FERPA?

  • FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (sometimes called the Buckley Amendment). Passed by Congress in 1974, the act grants four specific rights to the student. These rights begin as soon as the student enrolls or registers with an academic program of the university.

    1. The right to see the information that the institution is keeping on him/her.

    2. The right to seek an amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record.

    3. The right to consent to the disclosure of his/her records.

    4. The right to file a complaint with the FERPA Office in Washington, D.C.

  • The Basic Rules for Faculty/Staff

  • Student education records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.

  • As a faculty or staff member, you have a responsibility to protect education records in your possession.

  • Some information is considered public (sometimes called "Directory Information"). Under the terms of FERPA, UC Merced has established the following items as Directory Information, which may be released to those requesting it, unless the student specifically requests otherwise by completing a “nondisclosure form” with the Registrar.

    • The student’s name and telephone number(s)

    • UC Merced email address

    • Major field of study

    • Class (year in school)

    • Dates of attendance

    • Enrollment status (full-time, part-time)

    • Degrees and awards received

    • Participation in officially recognized activities

    • Photographs

  • Parental/guardian information is confidential. It is used by the university only for notification of events, ceremonies, awards, and development or in case of an emergency involving the student.

  • You have access to information only for legitimate use in the completion of your responsibilities as a university employee. "Need-to-know" is the basic principle.

  • If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar at 209-228-7178 or The Office of the Registrar is responsible for student record information.

  • Special "Don'ts" for Faculty

  • To avoid violating FERPA rules, do not at any time:

  • Post grades using any part of a student's ID number. If you want to post grades outside of your office, assign individual numbers to students at random. Only the student and the faculty member who assigned the number should know the number. The order of posting should never be alphabetic by student name.

  • Leave stacked graded papers for students to pick up — not even in sealed envelopes (unless you have the students' permission to do so). Instead, mail graded papers/exams via campus or U.S. mail-in envelopes that students pre-address, pre-stamp, and provide for you.

  • Circulate a printed class list for attendance purposes if it shows names and social security numbers or IDs.

  • Allow students to view, read, or record another student's social security number while in your work area.

  • Discuss student progress with anyone other than the student without the student's consent (this includes the student's parents and spouse).

  • Provide anyone with a student's schedule or help anyone other than university employees find a student on campus (Students First Center will assist).

  • Special "Do's" for Faculty/Staff

  • Make sure you protect all education records in your possession. This includes paper documents in your office such as computer printouts, class lists, display screen data, and advising notes. These are practical tools that you need to do your job; however, they should be protected like you would protect a purse or wallet. You should not leave these items out in open areas, but store them out of sight, preferably in a locked cabinet or drawer when not in use.

  • FERPA and Parents

  • FERPA is a federal law intended to protect the privacy of student education records accumulated from early childhood through college. FERPA provides parents with certain rights with respect to children's education records up until entry to the university. When a student enters the university, the rights parents previously held transfer exclusively to the student. The university considers students as adults, regardless of age or financial dependence. Ordinarily, parents of UC Merced students obtain information about their students' records directly from their students. The payment of a student's tuition by the parent does not, by itself, give the parent the right of access to a student's education record.  Questions regarding these procedures may be directed to the Office of the Registrar at 209-228-7178. 

  • What Is a Student Education Record?

  • Just about any information provided by a student to the university for use in the educational process is considered a student education record, including:

  • Personal information

  • Enrollment records

  • Grades

  • Schedules

  • The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. Student education record may be contained in the following media:

  • Documents in the Registrar's office

  • Computer printouts in a faculty/staff office

  • Class lists on an instructor's desktop

  • Computer display screens

  • Notes advisors have taken during an advisement session

  • University of California Policy Related to the Disclosure of Information from Student Records

  • For UC systemwide FERPA policy related to student record information disclosure, please see section 130.

  • Questions

  • Questions about these rights should be referred to the Office of the Registrar at UC Merced at 209-228-7178 or by emailing

Getting Your Syllabus Started

The Purpose of a Syllabus

  • A syllabus is a living contract between the instructor and his/her students.  In The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach, O'Brien, Millis, and Cohen (2008, 2nd Ed.), identify several elements of a learner-centered syllabus, some of which include:

    • Introduces the instructor to the student (i.e., passion, background, pronouns, teaching philospohy etc.)
    • Establishes an early point of contact and connection between student and instructor
    • Helps set the tone for the course
    • Describes your beliefs about educational purposes
    • Acquaints students with the logistics of the course
    • Defines student responsibilities for successful coursework
    • Describes active learning
    • Establishes prerequisites/helps students assess their readiness for your course
    • Sets the course in a broader context for learning/conceptual framework for the course
    • Describes available learning resources
    • Communicates the role of technology in the course
    • Can serve as a learning contract

Critical Syllabus Inclusions and Language

  • Once a course is established, the language instructors use to communicate with students about inclusivity, academic integrity, accessibility, campus resources, and expectations matters. The following list includes both suggested and requested statements that instructors can adapt or directly use in their syllabi. 

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement 

  • As mentioned above in the policy section, UC Merced has an official Diversity Statement that can be used in a course syllabus. If you would like to construct your own. Here are some suggestions:

    • Example 1

    • Research reveals that a sense of belonging, personal value, and the ability to express one’s perspectives without the fear of being personally attacked or intimidated is critical to learning.  As such, we need to have some agreed-upon norms of behavior for how we interact with one another in- and out-of-class.  All students have a right to learn, and the instructor has a right to teach. Our agreements will help to maintain a productive learning environment that supports equity, diversity, and inclusion.

      • Be committed to UC Merced’s Principles of Community. These principles reflect our ongoing efforts to a) increase access and inclusion and b) create a community that nurtures lifelong learning and growth for all stakeholders. UCM Principles of Community
      • Help to establish and maintain a community whereby all members feel they belong and are valued. In every sense, diversity provides an opportunity for us to grow personally, intellectually, and professionally.
      • In all communications, exercise professionalism and cultural responsiveness.
      • Show respect for differing opinions and perspectives.  One of the purposes of higher education is to expand your mind and perspectives. 
      • Be responsible for your decisions and actions. 
        • Attendance: Show up to class “prepared” to learn and help others learn.
        • Assignments: Do your best work and meet deadlines. (I understand that life does not always happen as expected, so if you have an unforeseen incident that prevents you from meeting a deadline, please email me at least 24 hours in advance of the due date to request an extension).
        • Communications/Discussions: Seek understanding and growth rather than an affirmation of your existing beliefs. Do your part to extend conversations rather than shut them down. We support open dialogue and diversity of thought when we ask for clarity, more information, and considerations of alternative points of view.  Respectful and supportive responses begin with:
            • Can you tell me more about…?
            • Please clarify what you mean by…
            • Have you considered….?
            • Is it also possible that…?
    • Example 2
      • We faculty and TA’s of [insert course], recognize that our individual differences can deepen our understanding of one another and the world around us, rather than divide us. In this class, we will work together to develop a learning community that is inclusive and respectful. Our diversity may be reflected by differences in race, ethnicities, nationalities, culture, age, religion, genders and gender identities, disabilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, political affiliation, and myriad other social identities and life experiences. The goal of inclusiveness, in a diverse community, encourages and appreciates expressions of different ideas, opinions, and beliefs, so that respectful conversations and interactions that could potentially be divisive turn instead into opportunities for intellectual and personal enrichment and growth.

      • A dedication to inclusiveness requires respecting what others say, their right to say it, and the thoughtful consideration of others' communication. Both speaking up and listening are valuable tools for furthering the thoughtful, enlightening dialogue. Respecting one another's individual differences is critical in transforming a collection of diverse individuals into an inclusive, collaborative, and excellent learning community. Our core commitment shapes our core expectations for behavior inside and outside of the classroom.  If at any point you feel your differences may in some way isolate you from our class community or if you have a need for any specific accommodations, please speak with us about your concerns and what we can do together to help you become an active and engaged member of our learning community. (We thank Marcos García-Ojeda (SNS) for this example)

  • Academic Integrity

  • Statement to be included in the course syllabus:

    • Academic honesty is taken very seriously at UC Merced. The Academic Honesty Policy and the Code of Student Conduct emphasize that students, faculty, and administration all share responsibility for maintaining a fair and honest academic environment. UC Merced is creating a strong tradition of upholding the student academic honesty policy and addressing suspected violations through the Report Form for Academic Misconduct and when appropriate the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR). Faculty and students both express confidence in the current process, which resolves almost all cases through informal meetings with students rather than formal hearings and emphasizes education in the discipline process. Faculty and OSRR strive to hold students accountable for violations but gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

  • Student Accessibility

  • Student Accessibility Services staff suggest the following statement to be included in the course syllabus:

    • If you anticipate or experience barriers due to pregnancy, temporary medical condition, or injury, please feel welcome to contact me so we can discuss options. You are encouraged to contact the Dean of Students for support and resources at (209) 228-3633 or

    • University of California, Merced is committed to creating learning environments that are accessible to all. If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on a disability, please feel welcome to contact me privately so we can discuss options. In addition, please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at (209) 228-6996 or as soon as possible to explore reasonable accommodations. All accommodations must have prior approval from Student Accessibility Services on the basis of appropriate documentation.

  • Classroom and Communication Etiquette

  • The tone of the classroom has a significant impact on the educational environment. These days, the pervasive use of devices such as cell phones and the fact that some students may be unaware of University behavioral standards or the impact of their actions on others can lead to repeated distractions and interruptions. University of California Standards of Conduct for Students provides that students may be disciplined for “disruption or obstruction” of teaching or other University functions, and for failure to identify themselves or comply with the directions of University officials, as well as other violations of conduct standards (for more information see the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities

    • Some things to consider including on your syllabus:

      • Policy on scheduling conflicts or make-ups
      • Entering and exiting class
      • Noise and Community Courtesy
      • Devices and their appropriate use
      • Email and correspondence etiquette (e.g., tone, format, response time, etc.)
      • Participation and working with others
      • See more details and suggestions from the UC Merced Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities
  • Plagiarism and Code of Conduct 

    • From the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities: UC Merced's disciplinary procedures are intended to promote reasoned, fair and impartial consideration of suspected student misconduct, with respect for the rights and interests of all concerned, the accused student, the reporting party, and the university. The discipline process itself is a meaningful educational experience, students learn from admitting their errors and accepting the consequences of their actions. Student discipline is a shared responsibility that is integral to the university's mission and helps to fulfill the aspirations of our academic community.

      • Possible statements to include on your syllabus:

      • Any time you use the research, ideas, images, analysis, language, etc. produced by another, you must cite that individual (give them credit). If you use the words of another author verbatim (word-for-word), you must indicate that by putting the words in quotation marks and noting the source. Use proper citations to avoid plagiarism

      • As a student at UC Merced, you are expected to know when and how to cite and paraphrase correctly. If you do not, ask me or your TA for help. Submitting work that contains work "borrowed" from others and not properly cited is called "plagiarism" and is a violation of our Code of Academic Conduct.

        • Some things to consider including on your syllabus:

          • Explicitly state your rules regarding the use and citation of Internet sources. Roughly half of all new plagiarism cases involve the Internet.
          • Using examples, distinguish clearly between authorized collaboration and unauthorized collaboration both in and out of class.
          • Attach copies of the UC Merced Code of Student Conduct.
          • Inform students that Academic Senate policy requires instructors to complete a Faculty Report Form for Academically Misconduct, meet with the student, and submit the form to the Dean of their school and Student Conduct.

Decolonizing the Curriculum

  • Are our curriculum and syllabus language welcoming diversity of thought and validating multiple perspectives or is it by nature exclusionary? We serve a diverse group of students and future scholars.  In these times of social and political unrest, it behooves us to examine our curriculum (i.e., What is common knowledge in the discipline and why is it common while other knowledge is less so or even denied?), as well as the language used in our syllabi. This is the work necessary to begin the process of decolonizing our curriculum.

  • It all starts with the syllabus. 

  • Need some inspiration to get started? Read Professor Chanelle Wilson's process of revising and decolonizing their syllabus.

    • Reconstruct your syllabus with these ideas in mind 

      • Introduce who you are and your background. It matters that students see you for you. 

      • Create community norms with your students and include language that addresses intolerance of microaggressions and racists remarks, actions, and behaviors. 

      • Build flexibility into your communication methods, assessment, and grading. Allow room for mistakes and growth. 

      • Make materials, examples, and assignments inclusive to race, socio-economic standing, gender, sexuality, disability, immigration status, English language learner, and first-generation students.

      • Offer positive affirmations and supportive language throughout your Canvas and communications with students (asset vs. deficit thinking). 

      • Include information about affordable housing, psychological services, food security, academic support, etc. 

    • " Decolonizing involves identifying colonial systems, structures and relationships, and working to challenge those systems.  It is not 'integration' or simply the token inclusion of the intellectual achievements of non-white cultures. Rather, it involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems.  It's a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways" (Keele Decolonizing the Curriculum Network, 2020).

  • Supporting Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) (adapted from (Ahadi & Guerrero 2020)

    • Validation

      • Open and direct, 1-on-1 communication and check-in on students when they do not show up, ask TAs do to the same in large classes. 
      • Validate students in and out of the classroom (Rendon, 1994)
      • Create opportunities to discuss ongoing marginalization, oppression, and barriers. 
    • Engagement

      • Engage students emotionally, behaviorally, and cognitively. 
      • Include examples BIPOC students can relate to. 
      • "For example, in mathematics, to remedy the whitewashing of BIPOC contributions, faculty need to expose students to their mathematical cultural heritage. This goal can be achieved by showcasing the non-European roots of mathematics (Joseph, 2010), using “the mathematics which is practiced among identifiable cultural groups” (Powell and Frankenstein, 1997, p.7) and language in decolonizing mathematics (Iseke-Barnes, 2000). As a result, when student engagement increases, a greater sense of belonging will take place as well." (Ahadi & Guerrero 2020)
    • Sense of belonging
      • Achieved through students feeling supported, respected, and accepted by instructors and peers.
      • Sense of belonging leads to "optimal functioning" (Strayhorn 2018).
      • Learn student names and gender pronouns.
      • Be sensitive to student needs and stay positive. 
  • References

  • Ahadi, H. S., Guerrero, L. S. (2020) "Decolonizing Your Syllabus, an Anti-Racist Guide for Your College" Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. URL 

  • Rendon, L. (1994) “Validating Culturally Diverse Students: Toward a New Model of Learning and Student Development.” Innovative Higher Education 19.1: 33-51.

  • Strayhorn, T. (2018) College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students. ISBN 9781138238558

Campus Resources and Student Services

  • UC Merced has myriad services focused on student success. Offering these services on your syllabus or linking them through you CatCourse page is a great way to make sure students know where to go in times of need. 

  • Help students become aware of UC Merced's plethora of Tutoring Services by including this link in your syllabi. 

Syllabus Template and General Syllabus Components

  • Download this Syllabus Template to start your syllabus construction or revision.

  • Exemplar Syllabi from UC Merced Faculty

  • Others have identified specific components to a syllabus and suggested features to be included. Incorporating these components will ensure that the instructor and students have the same expectations and responsibilities to meet the learning objectives of the course.

    • Basic Information

    • Course Description

    • Learning outcomes/goals/objectives

    • Required Materials

    • Requirements: exams, quizzes, assignments

    • Policies: grading procedures, attendance, participation, etc

    • Schedule: tentative calendar of topics and readings, exam dates, last day to drop date

    • Resources: tips for success, glossaries, links, academic support services, etc

    • Statement on accommodation

    • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Principles of Community)/ Community Norms and Expectations

    • Evaluation of student performance (grading criteria, etc.)

    • Rights and Expectations: students' and instructors'

    • Safety and Emergency Preparedness

    • UC Merced Academic Integrity Statement (Academic Honesty Policy and Student Code of Conduct)

  • References

Course Design, Organization, and the Practice of Teaching

Faculty Technology Guide for Instruction

  • UC Merced's Office of Instructional Technology (OIT) Faculty Technology Guide is a resource for technology services and solutions for research, teaching, and administrative needs. Resources include:

Structure Courses to Maximize Learning and Reduce Cognitive Load

  • Routine communication and expectations

  • Provide a “roadmap” for each week or module of the course. The roadmap is a document that gives the learning outcomes, instructional materials, readings, assignments, due dates, study tips, office hours and estimated times for each component. This is the #1 thing you can do to help students successfully navigate your course!

  • Set up weekly announcements where each week students get a recap of lessons, misconceptions, assignments, reminders, and words of encouragement. 

  • Develop rubrics for assignments that elaborate expectations.

  • Provide feedback regularly and on time

  • Aim to provide students as much timely, individual feedback as you comfortably can. Consider using peer review for assignments to have students see the work of peers and get extra feedback on their work. Consider having a deadline for students to submit work for peer review before the actual deadline so they can revise. Consider recording audio feedback rather than written. Consider recording a video after a major assignment or exam for the entire class where you discuss solutions and comment on common errors. You can utilize CatCourses tools to reach out to students with common characteristics to acknowledge successes (e.g., review CatCourse quiz analytics to assess student performance). Reach out individually to students who are not engaging or who may be struggling.

  • Create engaging content-based videos to have more time for in-person activities and discussion

  • Educational videos are often utilized as the main vehicle for content delivery in flipped, blended, and online courses. Even in traditional courses, multimedia often supplement lectures. Brame’s (2016) review of literature provides a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating that video can be a highly effective educational tool. However, not all videos are created equal.

  • To reduce extraneous load and confusion and boost engagement, videos should include the following strategies (adapted from Guo et al. 2014 and Brame 2016):

    1. Signaling – highlighting important information/essential understandings

    2. Segmenting and Brevity – chunking or interleaving information

      • Keep chunks less than 6 minutes for 100% engagement 

    3. Weeding – eliminating extraneous information

    4. Matching Modality to Content – use both visual and auditory channels to convey new information

    5. Personality – narrator's rate of speech, inflections, and tone inclusive student engagement. Use conversational language. 

    6. Embed Active Learning – include guiding questions, interactive features, and make videos parts of larger assignments. 

Working Smart with a Teaching Assistant (TA)

  • Establishing Inter-Rater Reliability Among Multiple Graders

  • Many instructors teach large classes with multiple TAs doing most, if not all, of the grading.  But is there consistency of markings across multiple graders? Are you sure that your students within and/or across sections of the same course are receiving fair and consistent grading?  The extent to which different raters marking the same student work would yield the same mark is referred to as inter-rater reliability.  While there is no magical formula to guarantee inter-rater reliability, using grading rubrics can help minimize subjectivity in grading.  A rubric is a tool in which criteria used for grading is clearly identified along a performance level continuum (e.g., excellent, above average, meets minimum requirements, and needs improvement). Different types of rubrics serve different purposes, and they can be used for a wide variety of assessments including projects, papers, performances, and class participation.

  • One of the main challenges with assessment reliability has to do with how to increase consistency among multiple TAs/graders. We have two suggestions.

    1. Write clear descriptions of the grading guidelines to signify the various types (or levels) of performances that TAs can expect. Take into consideration the

      • level of the course,

      • materials that have been covered,

      • students' level of disciplinary sophistication and knowledge, and

      • stage in the course or program; what the students are expected to know by this time (Terry, 2000, 232) (see rubric examples).

    2. Train your TAs on how to use the rubric/grading guidelines since, in the real world, no one student's responses on an assignment or test will perfectly match the descriptions for each level of performance. Don't be afraid to readjust the criteria descriptions if there is consensus among your and the graders.

  • High inter-rater reliability among TAs helps ensure that course learning outcomes are being met and that student knowledge and performance are evaluated with a common measuring stick. We can obtain higher levels of inter-rater reliability among multiple graders through calibration exercises.
  • Calibration Training

  • Calibration is a process of ongoing, frequent collaboration carried out by members of a disciplinary team (e.g., all graders for the same course) who will typically review, discuss, and compare the same student artifact to

    1. come to a shared understanding of what practice looks like at different performance levels and

    2. establish and maintain consistency in analyzing evidence, providing feedback, and using professional judgment to determine student performance scores.

  • Steps in the Calibration Process

  • Step I - Prepare: Provide all TAs with a) a copy of the student assignment (e.g., term paper; performance) and b) the scoring rubric to be used for grading.  Discuss each quadrant of the rubric to ensure the graders understand the distinctions between different scores possible for each of the performance criteria.  (You may want to show student examples of each level of performance and discuss what the score says to the student about future performance).

  • Step 2 - Review and Reflect: Distribute a single student submission for blind review. Each TA uses the rubric to score the same student artifact. 

  • Step 3 - Collaborate: First, have each member share their final assignment grade and provide a rationale for the score in each quadrant of the rubric.  Next, compare scores across all team members.  Finally, discuss any differences to establish consensus on the final grade.  If the grading guideline was ambiguous when grading, don't be afraid to modify the rubric before using it with the class.

  • ** Repeat as necessary with different student artifacts for the same assignment. The goal is fair and consistent grading across all graders.

  • Benefits of Using a Rubric

  • While it initially takes some time to create a robust rubric, the benefits for students, especially when shared at the time of the assignment, are many. Rubrics can enhance student learning by

    • connecting grading to course learning outcomes and/or objectives,

    • improving assignment design by clarifying desired performance traits,

    • increasing the likelihood that students understand and meet the assignment expectations,

    • reducing student anxiety about the fairness of grading.

  • For instructors, rubrics can help save you time by

    • narrowing the field of evaluation to desired learning outcomes

    • facilitating instructive written comments

    • contributing to fairness and consistency across multiple graders and sections,

    • reducing grade disputes or challenges,

    • reducing graders’ anxieties about grade inflation and/or the subjectivity of grading.

Pedagogy and Technology to Boost Student Success

  • Now that you have an introduction to teaching at UC Merced and have your course set up, it is time to start thinking about your course outcomes, how to implement active learning strategies and create an inclusive learning community. Head over to Practical Pedagogy and Course Design to start your practice! 

  • Feel like you need some more advice on academic tools and technology? Sign up for one of our workshops on topics such as using CatCourse templates, Zoom for instruction, using Camtasia and/or Kaltura for video production, or understanding how to employ inclusive and accessible instructional resources in the classroom and online. 

Instructor Wellness

Teaching and Learning During Uncertain Times

  • The Covid 19 Pandemic prompted many changes for educators and students alike.  Besides the unexpected and quick transition to emergency remote instruction, the pandemic changed how we manage our communications, relationships, work, home life, and overall well-being. Even as we return to in-person instruction much uncertainty remains. In times like these, it is wise to revisit the importance of managing cognitive load and mental health.

  • Cognitive Load

  • Cognitive Load Theory argues that one's ability to process new information in working memory and subsequently encode it into long-term memory for future retrieval is inhibited by the increased cognitive load brought on by stress, unnecessary distractions, ambiguous directions, unclear expectations, a confusing LMS interface, lengthy lectures, unnecessarily complex learning tasks, and ineffective instructional methods. 

  • Below you will find several strategies that can help reduce cognitive load and improve your instruction (see Taking the Load Off).

  • Teaching/Course Organization

    Strategies to Support Student Learning

    • Remove all non-essential content - focus on course learning outcomes and amplify critical content
    • Break up complex content into shorter LMS modules
    • Break up live or pre-recorded lectures into 10-minute segments
    • Provide visual, textual, and auditory explanations (multimodal)
    • Provide prompts to enrich academic tasks
    • Work your way up to the full complexity of concepts by first explaining isolated elements such as foundational terminology.
    • Use visual supports such as graphs, charts, maps, timelines, etc.
    • Provide clear and concise instructions
    • Provide examples and full solutions to problems for students to study
    • Provide completion tasks with partial solutions for students to finish
    • Upload a “Course Glossary” for students
    • Break-up large assignments into smaller, benchmark assignments/tasks
    • Create opportunities for collaborative learning and provide clear expectations
    • Conduct regular check-ins with students - ask, "is there anything I can do to make your learning experience better?"
  • * Adapted from Van Meerienboer & Sweller (2009)

  • Supporting Students in Challenging Times

  • Strategy


    Streamline course content


    De-clutter the curriculum; focus on core concepts and competencies outlined in program and course learning outcomes. Eliminate anything students might perceive as "busy work." (Ask, is this really needed to meet the CLO?)

    Simplify communications


    Establish a specific day when you will post announcements to the class - limit this to one communication a week (e.g., every Monday morning). The same holds true for TAs.

    Frequent check-ins with students

    Utilize effective strategies used during emergency remote teaching (e.g., mentimeter, Today I feel most like...).

    Reboot student engagement regularly

    Students may not always recognize the difficulty they are having with focusing attention, processing complex information, etc.  Institute short stretch breaks, meditation/ CALM activities, and physiological breaks to reboot their engagement. 

    Focus their desire for socialization and a sense of belonging

    Offer opportunities for small group work, think-pair-share, collaborative quiz taking, etc.  Rather than fight socialization, direct it.


    Maintain consistency and predictability

    Maintain a regular schedule and routine.

    For example, have a question or an engaging problem projected on the screen when students enter the room.  They are to start thinking and writing from the moment they enter the room; give students an opportunity to talk with peers/work on an issue or active learning activity midway through the class; end class with a quick write such as clearest and muddiest point/exit ticket.

    Curate centralized sources of information for students in the LMS


    create a "learning resources" module and provide links to sites and multimedia that can help deepen content understandings.

    Recap/review previous foundational knowledge

    Provide mini-reviews (live or pre-recorded), low- or no-stakes quizzes,


  • * Adapted from Iturble-LeGrave, 2020

Instructor Mental Health

  • Advances in neuroscience reveal that heightened levels of stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, and trauma inhibit executive functions and self-regulation skills, both of which have a significant impact on complex learning (McMurtrie, 2020).  "Under traumatic stress, the brain goes into a survival mode by prioritizing what matters - conserving energy to stay alive" (Imad, 2020) and attend to our physiological (e.g., food and sleep) and psychological (e.g., safety and belonging) needs (see Maslow). For many, the current global health crisis will have a significant impact on their ability to focus attention, plan, make decisions, prioritize tasks, etc.), all essential skills for learning.  The past year of isolation may increase students' desire to socialize and develop a sense of belonging to a community. Consider ways you can support students and help them manage their mental health.