Tips for Faculty on Neurodiversity in the Classroom

October 26, 2022

Elise Mueller and Darla Swann headshots.
Elise Mueller (left) is a senior consultant at Duke Learning Innovation; Darla Swann (right) is a learning consultant at the Academic Resource Center.

More than 80 instructors attended Duke Learning Innovation’s neurodiversity workshop with Elise Mueller and Darla Swann on October 6. For those who would like to learn more and could not attend, Mueller and Swann have shared a recording of the session, their slides and a blog post as well as these additional tips and resources:

  • Consider how to streamline your syllabus. Add white space and avoid dense text. Think about integrating graphics. Add a table of contents. Create separate pages for some content (like assessment instructions) that are linked to in the syllabus so it’s easier for students to find later. Allow students to download a PDF version of your syllabus so students can make formatting changes to help with visual processing. You might want to review this syllabus from Dr. Hard’s Psych 101 course.
  • Share detailed and concise instructions for assessments as early as you can in the semester.
  • Post the goals of the week/day in your PowerPoint or on the board. Use in-class short assessments (polls, exit tickets, etc.) that test those goals so students can gauge their learning. Ask students to self-reflect on their learning. Frequent low-stakes assessments keep all students on track.
  • Vary the question types and assessment formats so that students are able to demonstrate learning even if they don’t excel at one type of assessment.
  • Post outlines/PowerPoints before class so students can begin to process them, and print out copies, etc., before class. If a video is available, post so that all students can review content later.
  • Be flexible in deadlines and other assessment policies.

Don’t feel pressured to do everything at once, they advise. Ask yourself, what is most needed in the short term? And you don’t need to drop the expectations you have for students, they emphasize; just clear the path for them to be successful.

All faculty can contact learninginnovation@duke.edu to talk with a teaching consultant about these and other issues.