In an effort to avoid ‘frightening’ students, Journalism professors at Leeds Trinity University in the United Kingdom have been instructed to stop writing in capital letters and using certain words. Specifically speaking, the internal staff memo warns professors about the potential harm of overusing the words “do” and “don’t.” According to the memo, the overuse of such words could trigger student anxiety, and thus, result in poorer academic performance.
“Despite our best attempts to explain assessment tasks, any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all. Generally, avoid using capital letters for emphasis and “the overuse of ‘do’, and, especially, ‘don’t’.”
Additionally, the memo instructs faculty to be “explicit about any inexplicitness” when assigning coursework. According to the memo, failure to do so could cause students to discuss uncertainty about an assignment among one another.
“This can lead to further confusion and students may even then decide that the assessment is too difficult and not attempt it.”
In a statement, vice-chancellor Margaret House insists that the university is committed to encouraging students to reach their full academic potential, claiming that all universities implement similar guidelines.
“For every assignment, academic staff have an ‘unpacking’ session with students so the students are clear on what is expected. The majority of universities do this. It is also about good communication and consistent style. For example, it is best practice not to write in all capital letters regardless of the sector.”
“We are absolutely committed to enhancing and enriching the student learning experience at Leeds Trinity, where staff and students are a name not a number.”
There are over 3600 students enrolled at Leeds Trinity University.
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