Tackling DFWI Rates

Analytics and Course Redesign Templates


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Canvas Analytics is a powerful tool that enables instructors to harness the potential of learning analytics (LA) to improve student engagement and success. By collecting and analyzing data from learner interactions, Canvas Analytics empowers instructors to make data-driven decisions that can significantly improve learning outcomes. This table provides a comprehensive weekly strategy for using Canvas Analytics to identify learning difficulties, lack of engagement, and opportunities to support students, leading to improved learning and teaching practices.

A Practical Guide to Enhancing Student Engagement with Canvas Analytics

The table below provides a comprehensive overview of the various factors that contribute to high DFWI rates and how specific Canvas Analytics features can be used to address each of these factors. The table is organized by category, including academic, institutional, student, psychological, social, and external factors. Each row in the table identifies a specific DFWI factor, the corresponding Canvas Analytics feature that can be used to gain insight into that factor, an explanation of how Canvas helps to address the issue, and suggested intervention strategies.


Category DFWI Factors Canvas Analytics Feature How Canvas Helps Address the Issue Intervention Strategies
Academic Unpreparedness for College-level Work Use individual student analytics Identify students who may be struggling early in the course and provide targeted support. Offer personalized tutoring sessions
Academic Course Difficulty and Design Analyze course averages against assignment performance Identify areas of the course that may need refinement or restructuring. Adjust coursework to align with student outcomes
Academic Assessment Methods View average course grade analytics Evaluate the effectiveness of assessments and make necessary revisions to ensure fairness and clarity. Review assessments for fairness and clarity
Academic Feedback and Support Send messages to students using analytics insights Craft targeted messages to students using analytics insights to provide personalized feedback and support and encourage the use of peer mentoring. Tailor feedback and offer peer mentoring
Institutional Academic Support Services View and download reports View and download reports to identify students who may benefit from academic support services, such as tutoring or study groups. Connect students to tutoring or study groups
Institutional Advising and Course Scheduling View the Online Attendance report Gain insights into student engagement and inform advising and course scheduling strategies. Use data to advise on course load and scheduling
Institutional Class Size Compare weekly online activity Assess engagement levels and adjust course activities as needed. Analyze engagement to adjust class size
Institutional Technology and Resource Access View weekly online activity analytics Identify patterns in students’ access. Address technology needs for equitable access
Student Engagement and Motivation Send messages to all students based on specific criteria Promote engagement and motivation and encourage the use of peer mentoring. Encourage peer mentoring for motivation
Student Time Management and Study Skills View analytics for weekly online activity Gain insights into student time management and study skills and offer workshops or resources on effective study strategies. Offer workshops on effective study strategies
Psychological Anxiety and Stress Send messages based on course participation Offer support and resources for managing anxiety and stress, especially for students who show signs of disengagement. Provide stress management resources
Psychological Fixed Mindset View average grade analytics Identify students who may benefit from interventions that promote resilience, persistence, and a growth mindset, such as peer mentoring. Implement peer mentoring to foster growth mindset
Social Sense of Belonging Compare participation analytics Identify students who may need additional support to feel a sense of belonging in the course, and create opportunities for community-building, such as group projects. Create group projects to enhance community
External Digital Divide View device usage and online activity patterns Identify students who may be affected by the digital divide and implement programs to provide access to necessary technology and internet resources. When available, refer students to loaner programs for Internet and device access.


The table below offers a structured approach for monitoring student progress, identifying concerns, and implementing targeted support strategies. The table outlines specific data-driven actions and interventions for each day of the week, along with time-saving ideas and helpful resources. By following this practical framework, instructors can create a more responsive, personalized, and engaging learning experience for their students.


Day of the Week Data-Driven Actions and Interventions Time-Saving Ideas Helpful Resources and Guides


Review Past Week Activity

  • Review Last Week's Activity:
    • Review logins, page views, and material interactions.
    • Identify students with low engagement based on activity indicators (e.g., infrequent logins, limited interaction with key modules).
    • Use analytics dashboards with visualizations (e.g., bar charts) to identify trends in student activity.
    • Filter data to focus on key engagement indicators (e.g., login frequency, specific content interactions, quiz completion rates).
  • Use pre-built dashboards or create custom dashboards for quick access to key engagement metrics.
  • Leverage filtering options in analytics reports to focus on specific student groups or activities.
  • Schedule automated reports to run on Mondays, for a quick overview of the past week's activity.

Use course analytics

Filter analytics by student


Send Personalized Messages

  • Use Monday's data to identify students with low engagement.
  • Create personalized messages that offer support and encouragement.
  • Use message templates in Canvas to streamline communication.
  • Personalize templates with student names and specific details using message variables (e.g., course module name, office hours’ time).
  • Examples:
    • "Hi [Student Name], I noticed that you haven't logged in much this week. Is there anything I can do to help you catch up?"
    • "Based on your recent activity, it looks like you might be struggling with [course module]. I'm available for office hours at [time] if you'd like to discuss it."

Message one student

Message all students


Adjust Upcoming Assignments

  • Analyze grade distributions for recent assignments to identify areas of difficulty or low performance:
    • Use pre-built reports or custom reports focusing on assignment grades and performance distribution.
    • Develop a bank of alternative assignment components or smaller practice exercises for quick adaptation.
    • Consider pre-planning different levels of difficulty for assignments to facilitate data-driven adjustments.
  • Use pre-built reports or custom reports focusing on assignment grades and performance distribution.
  • Develop a bank of alternative assignment components or smaller practice exercises for quick adaptation.
  • Consider pre-planning different levels of difficulty for assignments to facilitate data-driven adjustments.
View average course grade



Review student engagement across various course activities

  • Review student engagement across various course activities:
    • Use Canvas reports and schedule automated reports to run on Thursdays, providing a consolidated view of student activity.
    • Leverage pre-built reports or create custom reports focusing on key participation indicators for each activity type.
    • Use filtering and sorting options to quickly identify low-participation students or those who need special assistance.
    • Consider spreading out monitoring throughout the week and flag potential issues based on ongoing activity.
  • Use Canvas reports:
    • Schedule automated reports to run on Thursdays, providing a consolidated view of student activity.
    • Use pre-built reports or create custom reports focusing on key participation indicators for each activity type.
    • Use filtering and sorting options to quickly identify low-participation students or those who need special assistance.
    • Consider spreading out monitoring throughout the week.
    • Flag potential issues based on ongoing activity
View weekly online activity


Evaluate Intervention Impact & Prepare for Next Week

  • Evaluate overall student engagement and interactions for the week based on data and observations:
    • Use Canvas analytics reports to quickly evaluate student progress and intervention effectiveness and identify trends and areas that may need further attention.
    • Schedule reports to run automatically on Fridays, providing a summary of the week's intervention impact and key engagement metrics.
    • Use pre-defined dashboards or create custom ones for quick access to relevant intervention impact data (e.g., changes in participation rates after personalized messages).
    • Annotate dashboards or reports with notes on intervention strategies and their outcomes for future reference and adaptation.
  • Use Canvas Analytics reports to quickly assess student progress and intervention effectiveness and identify trends and areas that may need further attention.
  • Schedule reports to run automatically on Fridays, providing a summary of the week's intervention impact and key engagement metrics.
  • Use predefined dashboards or create custom dashboards for quick access to relevant intervention impact data (e.g., changes in participation rates after personalized messages).
  • Annotate dashboards or reports with notes about intervention strategies and their results for future reference and adaptation.
View and download reports


Course Redesign

The following table summarizes a collection of effective instructional practices aimed at improving student learning outcomes and addressing factors that contribute to high DFWI (D, fail, withdraw, incomplete) rates. Each strategy is briefly described, accompanied by a brief example of its use and an explanation of how it can help mitigate problems that lead to high DFWI rates. The strategies cover various aspects of course design and delivery, such as creating a supportive classroom environment, providing timely feedback, using formative assessments, implementing transparent teaching practices, designing accessible syllabi, assigning relevant and engaging work, promoting inclusive pedagogies, teaching metacognitive strategies, scaffolding learning, and encouraging critical reflection. Each strategy is supported by multiple research references, lending credibility to its effectiveness in promoting student success.


# Title Description Quick Example Addressing DFWI Rates Supporting Research
1 Supportive Classroom Atmosphere Create a supportive classroom atmosphere through community building, collaborative learning, and class requirements and expectations. Clearly communicate roles, expectations, and classroom norms at the beginning of the course. Foster a collaborative learning environment through group activities, peer feedback, and class discussions. Can help ease the difficult transition from high school to university by fostering a sense of belonging and support, and by addressing both institutional and student barriers such as limited resources and lack of academic preparation.
  1. Cardon, L. S., & Womack, A. M. (2022). Inclusive College Classrooms: Teaching Methods for Diverse Learners. Routledge.
  2. Fink, L. D. 2003. Creating significant learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Herman, J. H., & Nilson, L. B. (2023). Creating Engaging Discussions: Strategies for "Avoiding Crickets" in Any Size Classroom and Online. Taylor & Francis.

2 Frequent and Timely Feedback Provide frequent and timely feedback to students and use/direct students to additional resources to improve their learning. Offer regular, constructive feedback on assignments and assessments. Use a variety of feedback methods, such as written comments, rubrics, and one-on-one meetings. Refer students to additional resources, such as tutoring services or supplemental materials, to support their learning and address identified challenges. Frequent feedback loops allow for proactive outreach to at-risk students to address academic challenges and connect them with resources early.
  1. Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.
  2. Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. Routledge.

Wisniewski, B., Zierer, K., & Hattie, J. (2020). The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 487662.

3 Formative Assessments Use formative assessments to measure student understanding and guide instructional improvements. Use low-stakes, formative assessments to gauge student understanding and provide timely feedback. Examples include pre-class quizzes, in-class polls, think-pair-share activities, collaborative annotation exercises, and exit tickets. Low-stakes, formative assessments enable both instructors and students to measure learning progress in real time, allowing for timely adjustments, interventions, and self-reflection.
  1. Bennett, R. E. (2011). Formative assessment: A critical review. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18(1), 5-25.
  2. Heritage, M. (2010). Formative assessment: Making it happen in the classroom. In Formative Assessment: Making It Happen in the Classroom (pp. 7-20). Corwin Press.

Morris, R., Perry, T., & Wardle, L. (2021). Formative assessment and feedback for learning in higher education: A systematic review. Review of Education, 9(3), e3292.

4 Transparent Teaching Practices Use transparent instructional practices to make the learning process more explicit and understandable. Use transparent teaching practices by providing clear learning objectives, assessment criteria, and model examples of successful work. Share rubrics in advance and explain the rationale behind instructional decisions. Transparency about academic expectations and available resources is especially important for underprepared and first-generation students navigating unfamiliar university systems.
  1. Faculty Focus, (2024). Transparent teaching and learning. https://www.facultyfocus.com/tag/transparent-teaching-and-learning/
  2. Winkelmes, M. A., Boye, A., & Tapp, S. (Eds.). (2023). Transparent Design in Higher Education Teaching and Leadership: A Guide to Implementing the Transparency Framework Institution-Wide to Improve Learning and Retention. Taylor & Francis.

Winkelmes, M. A. (2013). Transparency in teaching: Faculty share data and improve students' learning. Liberal Education, 99(2), 48.

5 Accessible Syllabi Design accessible curricula that set clear expectations and help students get off to a strong start. Design an accessible, learner-centered syllabus that includes inclusive language, clearly defined policies, and proactive connections to academic support services. Ensure that the syllabus is available in multiple formats, meets accessibility guidelines, and provides a clear roadmap for student success by outlining course expectations, resources, and support systems. Accessible and engaging course syllabi serve as a critical roadmap for student success by demystifying academic expectations and proactively connecting students to a network of support from day one.
  1. CFD, (2023). Syllabus Template. https://www.odu.edu/sites/default/files/2023/documents/cfd-syllabus-tem…
  2. Fuentes, M. A., Zelaya, D. G., & Madsen, J. W. (2021). Rethinking the course syllabus: Considerations for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. Teaching of Psychology, 48(1), 69-79.

Yarosh, J. H. (2021). The syllabus reconstructed: An analysis of traditional and visual syllabi for information retention and inclusiveness. Teaching Sociology, 49(2), 173-183.

6 Relevant and Engaging Assignments Make learning relevant to students by offering choices in assignments and connecting instruction to broader goals. Offer students choices in assignment topics or formats to increase relevance and engagement. Encourage students to reflect on how coursework aligns with their personal interests, career goals, and real-world applications. Meaningful assignments that tap into students' intrinsic motivations can increase engagement and persistence, easing the transition to college-level work.
  1. Kursurkar, Croiset, & Ten Cate. (2011). Twelve tips to stimulate intrinsic motivation in students through autonomy-supportive classroom teaching derived from self-determination theory. Medical Teacher, 33(12), 978-982.
  2. Elizondo, K., Valenzuela, R., Pestana, J. V., & Codina, N. (2024). Self‐regulation and procrastination in college students: A tale of motivation, strategy, and perseverance. Psychology in the Schools. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.23088.

Thorpe, M. (2000). Encouraging students to reflect as part of the assignment process: Student responses and tutor feedback. Active Learning in Higher Education, 1(1), 79-92.

7 Inclusive Pedagogies Promote inclusive pedagogy that fosters awareness and acceptance of differences among students. Incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to provide multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression in your course materials and assessments. Inclusive, UDL-informed instruction proactively designs learning to be accessible from the outset to the variability of students' circumstances, identities, and abilities, reducing the need for individualized accommodations.
  1. The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning (2019). Inclusive Teaching. https://bokcenter.harvard.edu/inclusive-teaching
  2. Stentiford, L., & Koutsouris, G. (2021). What are inclusive pedagogies in higher education? A systematic scoping review. Studies in Higher Education, 46(11), 2245-2261.

Brussino, O. (2021). Building capacity for inclusive teaching: Policies and practices to prepare all teachers for diversity and inclusion. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 256, OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/57fe6a38-en

8 Metacognitive Strategies Incorporate metacognitive strategies to help students develop effective study habits. Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning processes, set goals, and assess their progress through activities such as exam wrappers or learning journals. Weaving explicit instruction in metacognitive strategies into courses equips students with lifelong tools for managing their own learning and addresses potential gaps in their overall readiness.
  1. De Boer, H., Donker, A. S., Kostons, D. D., & Van der Werf, G. P. (2018). Long-term effects of metacognitive strategy instruction on student academic performance: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 24, 98-115.
  2. Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34(10), 906-911.

Lawson, C. A., McGuire, S., Hodges, R., Gray, R., McGuire, S. Y., Killingbeck, M., & Segovia, J. (2021). Recipe for Success: Teaching Students Metacognitive and Self-Regulatory Learning Strategies. Learning Assistance Review, 26(2), 149-178.

9 Scaffolded Learning Provide examples, break down assignment steps, and have intentional conversations with students. Provide opportunities for student choice in assignment topics or formats to increase relevance and engagement. Encourage students to think about how coursework aligns with their personal interests, career goals, and real-world applications. Scaffolding creates more accessible entry points to challenging college-level work for students with varying levels of prior knowledge. By providing structured support and guidance, scaffolding helps students gradually develop the skills and confidence needed to succeed, thereby mitigating potential barriers created by uneven academic preparation and reducing the likelihood of DFWI outcomes.
  1. McGuire, S. Y. (2015). Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. Stylus Publishing.
  2. Vespone, B. (2023). Co-constructing teaching and learning in higher education: a literature review of practices and implications. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (27.

Barkley (2010). Student engagement techniques. Jossey-Bass.

10 Critical Reflection Incorporate reflective activities to help students monitor their learning progress and adjust their approaches accordingly. Encourage critical reflection through techniques such as The Muddiest Point, where students identify areas of confusion, and exam wrappers, which encourage students to analyze their performance and study strategies. Promotes students' metacognitive skills and self-regulated learning, which can mitigate challenges related to mental health, well-being, and varying levels of academic preparation.
  1. Tanner (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 11(2), 113-120.
  2. Chan, C. K., & Lee, K. K. (2021). Reflection literacy: A multilevel perspective on the challenges of using reflections in higher education through a comprehensive literature review. Educational Research Review, 32, 100376.

Van Beveren, L., Roets, G., Buysse, A., & Rutten, K. (2018). We all reflect, but why? A systematic review of the purposes of reflection in higher education in social and behavioral sciences. Educational Research Review, 24, 1-9.


Course Redesign Template: Aligning Outcomes, Activities, and Assessments



Course Activity Redesign Process

(May require additional resources, technology, or support services)
Addressing DFWI Rates Example
(Adapt to your specific course)
1 Clarify and Align Learning Outcomes with Course Content, Activities and Assessment
  • Define specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) learning outcomes.
  • Prioritize essential skills and knowledge.
  • Align learning outcomes with program and institutional goals to ensure consistency and relevance.
Clear, aligned learning outcomes provide a roadmap to success, help underprepared students focus on key skills, and reduce confusion about expectations.
  • For a challenging Mathematics course: "Break down complex outcomes into specific, measurable sub-skills. Ex: Students will a) set up linear equations, b) solve using appropriate methods, c) interpret solutions in context."
  • Align formative and summative assessments with this outcome, and design instructional activities that support its achievement.
  • Share these outcomes in an accessible, learner-centered syllabus that sets clear expectations and provides guidance on how to succeed in the course.
2 Diversify Assessment Methods
  • Utilize a variety of assessment methods that provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding and progress.
  • Include formative assessments to gauge student understanding and guide instructional improvements.
  • Ensure that assessments are accessible, inclusive, and aligned with learning outcomes. Offer choices, when possible, to accommodate student strengths.
Varied, frequent assessments provide regular touchpoints to identify and support struggling students, addressing gaps in preparation and institutional resources.
  • Use pre-assessments to gauge prior knowledge. Gradually increase complexity. Provide exemplars and rubrics.
  • Use formative assessments, such as ungraded assignments, to measure student understanding and application.
3 Integrate Active Learning Strategies
  • Incorporate active learning strategies to actively engage students in the learning process and focus on critical concepts and skills.
  • Use think-pair-share, jigsaw, problem-based learning, etc. Balance group and individual work. Debrief activities explicitly.
  • Incorporate metacognitive strategies to help students develop effective study habits.
Active learning builds self-efficacy and a sense of belonging, which are critical for persistence. It provides safe practice of skills and addresses gaps in preparation.
  • In a gateway Chemistry course, introduce guided inquiry activities and group discussions to reinforce key concepts and problem-solving strategies.
  • Scaffold inquiry from structured to open-ended. Model problem-solving. Have groups share out. Debrief process.
  • Teach students to reflect on their thinking and develop strategies to improve their study plans.
4 Design Relevant and Engaging Assignments
  • Make learning relevant to students by offering assignment choices and connecting lessons to broader goals.
  • Provide exemplars, break down assignment steps, and have intentional conversations with students.
  • Seek student input and feedback on assignment design.
  • Co-create assignments when possible. Connect to current events, career aspirations, and lived experiences.
Mitigates the impact of competing priorities by aligning assignments with students' interests and real-world applications, increasing motivation and engagement.
  • Offer multiple assignment options and help students connect lessons to personal goals.
  • Provide examples of exemplary work, break it down into parts (learning objectives and scaffolding), and "uncover course content" for students.
  • Involve students in the assignment design process and gather their feedback for improvement.
5 Optimize Technology and Feedback
  • Integrate educational technologies that support learning outcomes and increase accessibility.
  • Establish regular and targeted feedback mechanisms to identify and support at-risk students early in the course.
  • Use student feedback to inform technology and feedback strategies.
Well-designed technology tools can make high-impact practices more feasible at scale but require intentional implementation and support.
  • Use adaptive learning platforms to provide personalized feedback and resources based on individual student needs.
  • Implement mid-semester surveys, individual progress meetings, and techniques such as "The Muddiest Point" and exam wrappers to gather feedback and support struggling students. Customize feedback and use of technology based on student input.
6 Implement Transparent Teaching Practices
  • Use transparent teaching practices to make the learning process more explicit and understandable.
  • Provide a rationale for assignments and learning opportunities and engage in research-based pedagogy.
Reduces confusion and aligns student expectations with course requirements, addressing issues of academic preparation and awareness of support resources.
  • Share with students the purpose, tasks, and criteria for assignments.
  • Discuss the rationale for course activities and how they contribute to learning outcomes.
  • Engage in conversations about research-based pedagogical practices with colleagues and students.
7 Plan for Continuous Improvement
  • Develop an ongoing process for course evaluation and revision based on DFWI rates, student feedback, and evidence-based strategies.
  • Encourage critical reflection by both students and instructors.
  • Involve students in the continuous improvement process by seeking their input and suggestions.
Fosters a culture of reflection and improvement by directly addressing institutional challenges and student needs to continuously reduce DFWI rates.
  • Analyze DFWI data and student evaluations each semester to identify areas for improvement.
  • Implement targeted interventions in course design and delivery based on the findings.
  • Use reflective techniques such as The Muddiest Point and exam wrappers to gather feedback and guide improvements in teaching and learning.
  • Engage students in the continuous improvement process by regularly soliciting their input and suggestions through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one conversations.

Course Activity Design Template: Engaging Learning Experiences


Step Component
(May require additional resources, technology, or support services)
Addressing DFWI Rates Example
(Customize for your specific course)
1 Activity Title, Discipline, & Context

Ensure that the title is engaging, student-centered, inclusive, and focuses on the key skills or knowledge to be gained. Consider the broader context and relevance of the activity to students' lives and future goals.

A clear, discipline-specific title helps students connect the activity to their academic goals, increasing relevance and motivation, which are key factors in reducing DFWI rates.
  • Title:
    Instead of "Environmental Policy Debate"
    Consider: “Debating Climate Change Solutions: Navigating Science, Policy, and Advocacy
2 Learning Outcomes & Assessment Alignment
  • Align the activity with the specific course learning outcomes and assessment strategies for the course.
  • Refer to Bloom's Taxonomy or other frameworks to ensure that the activity targets appropriate cognitive levels.
Explicit alignment with learning outcomes and assessments provides a clear roadmap for success. It helps students prioritize their efforts and stay on track, mitigating factors that contribute to DFWI rates.
  • Evaluate different perspectives on climate change policy and formulate a reasoned argument.

Break down the learning outcome into specific, measurable criteria for success. For example, students will a) identify at least three perspectives, b) provide evidence for each, c) take a clear position, d) anticipate counterarguments.

3 Prerequisites & Instructional Support (Scaffolding) Provide resources, brief tutorials, or collaborative learning opportunities to help students fill in knowledge gaps and build necessary foundational skills. Consider the diverse needs and backgrounds of your students when designing instructional support. Adequate preparation and instructional support level the playing field for student success. They address potential gaps in prior knowledge that can lead to DFWI, especially for historically underserved students.
  • Prerequisites: Understanding the causes and effects of climate change.
  • Scaffolding: Provide resources on policy analysis and argumentation techniques prior to the debate.
4 Activity Type & Description
  • Describe the type of learning activity, its scope, and provide a brief outline. Clearly articulate the rationale for the choice of activity and how it aligns with the learning outcomes and promotes student engagement.
  • Highlight the key skills or knowledge to be practiced and the expected level of student interaction, if any.
Active, collaborative learning increases student ownership and accountability, building essential self-efficacy and metacognitive skills that can be transferred to other rigorous courses and reduce the overall risk of DFWI.
  • Type:  Small-group debate
  • Description: Students form teams to debate a given environmental policy issue, fostering critical thinking and communication skills.
  • Adaptable to a variety of class sizes and formats.
5 Procedure & Integration Provide a suggested timeline for each step of the activity, including checkpoints to monitor progress and provide guidance. Clear procedures and expectations create a supportive structure for learning. They have the potential to reduce unproductive confusion and affective barriers that can hinder success and persistence, especially for students from marginalized groups.
  • Steps include preparation, position research, and structured debate format.
  • Integrate with course content by selecting topics relevant to the syllabus.
  • Include a post-debate debrief or reflection to reinforce learning and identify areas for improvement.
  • Provide a detailed handout or online resource with instructions and expectations.
6 Assessment & Feedback
  • Outline assessment methods, feedback mechanisms, and how student feedback will be used to refine the activity.
  • Consider including self-assessment and goal setting to promote metacognition and self-directed learning.
Proactively designing for accessibility and inclusion creates a more equitable learning environment by reducing systemic barriers to success that disproportionately affect students from historically marginalized groups, a key factor in DFWI rates.
  • Peer assessment of presentation skills and rubric-based assessment of argument quality.
  • Provide training and guidelines for effective peer feedback. Monitor and model the process.
  • Use student feedback to make improvements and adjustments.
7 Resources & Accessibility
  • List materials needed, estimate time required, and ensure accessibility for all students.
  • Consider potential barriers to access (e.g., technology, language, disability) and proactively plan for accommodations.
  • Use Universal Design for Learning principles.
Promotes equity by ensuring that all students have the resources and support they need to fully participate in course activities.
  • Resources: Research materials, debate guidelines.
  • Time: Two 50-minute class sessions.
  • Ensure that all students have access to necessary resources and consider accessibility needs.
8 Reflection & Continuous Improvement
  • Encourage student reflection and use feedback to continuously improve the activity.
  • Share aggregated feedback and planned improvements with students to close the loop and demonstrate responsiveness
Reflecting on learning and acting on feedback creates a culture of continuous improvement, fostering a growth mindset and sense of belonging that can improve academic performance and persistence, especially for students at higher risk for DFWI.
  • Include reflection prompts or a post-activity survey.
  • Use a variety of reflection formats (written, oral, multimedia) to accommodate different preferences and strengths.
  • Review feedback regularly and make iterative changes to improve effectiveness and alignment with learning outcomes.


Assessment Design Template: Authentic and Equitable Evaluations


Step Component
(May require additional resources, technology, or support services)
Addressing DFWI Rates Example
(Customize for your specific course)
1 Assessment Objectives
  • Connect each assessment to specific course learning objectives and ensure that they are aligned with the overall goals of the course.
  • Clearly communicate this connection to students so they understand the purpose and value of each assessment.
Explicit alignment between assessments and learning outcomes provides a clear roadmap for success. It helps students focus their efforts and see the direct impact on their academic goals, mitigating the disengagement and confusion that can lead to DFWI. Break down the learning outcome into specific, measurable criteria for assessment. For example, students will a) define key concepts, b) analyze a real-world case study, c) propose an intervention based on psychological principles.
2 Diversity of Assessment Types
  • Use a range of assessment methods to cater to different learning preferences and ensure that assessment practices are inclusive.
  • Ensure that the different types of assessments are fair and comparable in terms of difficulty and time required.
Formative assessments create a feedback loop between students and instructors, enabling timely adjustments and personalized support that can prevent the accumulation of knowledge gaps and disengagement that often lead to DFWI.
  • Use essays, group projects, and individual presentations to accommodate different assessment preferences.
  • Provide clear guidelines and rubrics for each type of assessment to ensure transparency and fairness.
  • Consider alternative assessment options for students with specific needs or challenges, such as oral exams or portfolio submissions.
3 Formative Assessments
  • Incorporate ongoing assessments throughout the course to provide continuous feedback, modify teaching strategies, and identify students who may need additional support early on.
  • Use the information gathered from these assessments to make informed decisions about instruction and provide targeted support to students.
Ongoing feedback from formative assessments allows for early intervention and support for at-risk students, significantly impacting DFWI rates by addressing issues before they lead to failure or withdrawal.
  • Use bi-weekly reflection journals and in-class discussions to monitor learning progress.
  • Provide prompts that encourage students to reflect on their learning strategies and identify areas for improvement.
4 Rubric Design
  • Create clear, easy-to-understand grading criteria for all assessments to ensure that they are aligned with course learning objectives and overall course goals.
  • Involve students in the process of developing these criteria to increase their ownership and understanding of what is expected of them.
Clear, student-centered rubrics demystify the assessment process, promoting a growth mindset and self-directed learning, which can increase academic confidence and resilience, mitigating DFWI risk factors.
  • Create detailed rubrics for essay assignments that outline criteria for content mastery, critical thinking, and writing quality.
  • Incorporate course redesign elements, such as an emphasis on real-world applications and diverse perspectives, into the rubric criteria.
5 Feedback Strategies
  • Use effective feedback techniques to support student learning and growth.
  • Provide a combination of written, verbal, and peer feedback to offer multiple perspectives and opportunities for improvement.
Effective feedback fosters a sense of belonging and validates students' efforts. It increases students’ motivation to persevere through challenges-a key factor in mitigating DFWI, especially for students from historically underserved backgrounds.
  • Provide a combination of written comments and face-to-face feedback sessions for major assignments.
  • Use a feedback loop approach in which students can revise and resubmit work based on initial feedback to promote continuous learning and improvement.
6 Assessment Scheduling
  • Carefully plan the timing and frequency of assessments to maximize learning, reduce student stress, and support their success.
  • When possible, offer flexibility and options in assessment timing to accommodate the diverse needs and commitments of students.
Strategic pacing of assessments supports student well-being and work-life balance, mitigating the impact of non-academic factors on performance that can disproportionately affect underserved students and contribute to DFWI ratings.
  • Distribute assessments evenly throughout the semester with a mix of low-stakes and high-stakes assignments.

Consider students’ workload and other commitments when scheduling assessments and provide clear communication about deadlines and expectations.

7 Accessibility and Accommodations
  • Ensure that all assessments are accessible and meet the needs of diverse students.
  • Consult with disability services and student support offices to anticipate and address potential barriers.
Proactively designing assessments for accessibility and inclusivity upholds the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It creates an equitable environment in which all students can demonstrate their knowledge and skills-a critical factor in reducing systemic inequities in DFWI.   
  • Provide alternative assessment formats, such as audio or video submissions, for students with learning disabilities.
  • Work with campus accessibility services to provide necessary accommodations and support for students with specific needs.
8 Technology Integration
  • Use technology, including GenAI, to streamline assessment processes, provide prompt feedback, and support individualized learning.
  • Caution: While AI can enhance personalization, it should complement, not replace, human feedback and interaction.
  • Ensure that AI-generated feedback is accurate, appropriate, and aligns with learning objectives. Monitor for potential bias or inequity in AI-generated feedback.
Thoughtful integration of assessment technology can increase access, engagement, and self-directed learning, but must be balanced with human interaction and support to ensure holistic student development and mitigate potential equity gaps.
  • Use online quiz platforms with automated grading and immediate feedback.
  • Explore adaptive assessment tools that adjust difficulty based on student performance.

Use learning analytics to identify patterns and provide targeted support to struggling students.
Use Generative AI to provide students with personalized tutoring and feedback options.

9 Continuous Improvement
  • Consistently review and analyze data from assessments to identify areas for improvement in course design and assessment strategies.
  • Break down assessment data by student demographics to identify and address any potential disparities in student performance or access to resources.
Continuously improving assessment practices demonstrates a commitment to student success and equity. It fosters a culture of belonging and growth that can significantly impact DFWI rates, especially for historically underserved student populations.
  • Use item analysis data to inform targeted review sessions or supplemental instruction on challenging concepts.
  • Gather student feedback on assessments through surveys or focus groups and use the results to refine assessment methods and align them with student needs and course redesign goals.