A new study published in the journal Teaching of Psychology has shown that a friendlier syllabus can improve engagement between college students and professors.
According to researchers at Oregon State University (OSU), when a syllabus is warmer and friendlier, fewer students are likely to experience issues with approaching instructors for help.
The study was released at a time when mental health issues have been on the rise in higher education.
More than 250 psychology students at OSU took part in the study. Each participant was instructed to read one of four syllabi.
The aim of the study was to test the tone of the syllabus and how the presence of a short statement addressing mental health would allow for engagement between professors and college students.
“We found a main effect for tone on three Reach Out statements and ratings of the instructor. Presence of the statement influenced likelihood to reach out for help with personal problems,” wrote first author Regan Gurung and co-author Noelle Galardi, in their journal article.
The study concluded that composing a syllabus with a warmer tone and including statements normalizing engagement where warranted can increase a student’s intentions to engage with their instructors for help.
“Writing a warm toned syllabus and addressing stress and mental health with a university statement may increase student’s intentions to ask for help,” said Gurung and Galardi in their journal article.