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Towards Cruelty-Free Syllabi

Towards Cruelty-Free Syllabi Online

A common approach to syllabus creation may lean towards being stern and inflexible, primarily focusing on rules and punitive measures for non-compliance. In his talk, "Towards Cruelty-Free Syllabi," Matthew Cheney challenges educators to rethink this approach and foster a more understanding and supportive learning environment.

Cheney encourages educators to mirror the understanding and nurturing tone they would use in a correspondence with a student facing difficulties. He advocates for a shift away from a punitive framework, urging educators to craft syllabi that are characterized by trust and encouragement, rather than suspicion and punishment.

Key questions guiding this transformative approach include:

• Does your syllabus invite students warmly, encouraging them to engage, or does it primarily serve as a list of prohibitions and penalties?

• Is the underlying assumption that students are inherently untrustworthy?

• Are the articulated policies more punitive than they are supportive?

• Does the language of the syllabus communicate trust and understanding, or does it reflect a more authoritarian stance?

Through a re-evaluation of the language and tone used in syllabi, educators can create a space that fosters trust, understanding, and collaboration, cultivating a classroom environment where students feel supported and motivated to learn.



Matthew Cheney is Associate Professor and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University. He is the author of Blood: Stories (Black Lawrence Press, 2016, Hudson Prize winner), Modernist Crisis and the Pedagogy of Form (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), About That Life: Barry Lopez and the Art of Community (punctum books, 2023), and The Last Vanishing Man and Other Stories (Third Man Books, 2023). His essays and fiction have appeared in a wide variety of venues, including Woolf Studies Annual, English Journal, LA Review of Books, LitHub, Electric Literature, Approaches to Teaching Modernist Women's Writing in English, The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader, Conjunctions, One Story, Weird Tales, and elsewhere. You can find him online at matthewcheney.net and his academic blog finiteeyes.net.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023
1:00pm - 2:30pm
Time Zone:
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Saskatchewan (change)
This is an online event. Event URL will be sent via registration email.
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CTL Centre for Teaching and Learning

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