Mental Health Tips

Supporting Positive Mental Health in Your Classroom

These tips are just the starting point. Every tip surely won’t work for every course, but hopefully you’ll find something new to try. Join the Positive Pedagogy Community of Practice to continue building the list and sharing ideas (

Pedagogical Approaches

  • Do not post assignment/test grades before a weekend begins.  Ideally, grades should be posted such that students can speak with you (the instructor) soon.  This practice can help the instructor put the student’s grade in perspective.
  • Use a strengths-based approach that emphasizes the positive aspects of student effort and achievement, as well as human strengths. Make the effort to highlight what students are doing right. Help students identify and capitalize on their strengths.
  • Learn more at:

Classroom Culture/Climate

  • Share stories of your failures and comebacks. 
  • Commend students for asking questions about course material or assignments .
  • Share how you (the instructor) relax/unwind with hobbies, friends, etc…
  • Ask students for their help (e.g., help with computer, understanding new social media, etc). Help students realize that they know valuable information that you don’t.
  • Clearly define instructor and learner roles/expectations. Example:
    • Instructor role. I strive to provide an organized environment with clear challenging expectations. I want to facilitate opportunities for you to express your opinions. I will provide access to resources you need to succeed in the course. I will provide timely useful feedback, typically within 1 week after the assignment due date, but longer written assignments may take up to 10 working days. I try to respond to all student communication within 24 - 48 hours. I may not respond after 6:00 pm on weekdays or on weekends.
    • Learner role. I expect you to adhere to all aspects of the WSU Student Code ( Be responsible for your learning. Be prepared. Identify knowledge and skills that you want to learn, and those that are challenging for you to learn. Be proactive in communicating questions and needs. Work hard and be persistent. Plan and use your time effectively. Learn to use Canvas effectively (notification settings, discussions, assignment submission and feedback, quizzes, etc). Keep track of the points you’ve earned towards your grade. If you are uncertain of assignment requirements, be responsible for seeking clarification before submitting the assignment.
  • Invite/use humor effectively 
    • Have a sense of humor about your own mistakes. 
    • Use humor (funny story or anecdote) before introducing a challenging concept. This can relax students and help with uptake of more abstract concepts. 
  • Maximize student choice/control/autonomy.  
  • Attend to nonverbal communication, for yourself and for the students. 
    • Be sure to smile occasionally.
    • Attend to student facial expressions. Notice if they look puzzled and ask what they are thinking.     
  • Provide opportunities for students to share their failures and comebacks with each other, like solutions/tips that helped them through a research assignment. Hearing that other students are struggling and finding ways to work through a challenge helps them know they are not alone and also helps build social connections between students.
  • Build capacity. 
  • Consider not grading on a curve. Explain how this can create a noncompetitive culture in the classroom.
    • Provide opportunities for students to set individual goals and track their own progress.
    • Provide resources to help students build skills they may not be prepared with.  
    • Create a Google document where students who have just completed an assignment can leave tips for next semester’s students.
  • Encourage transparency.  
    • Be transparent with students. Tell them what to expect. Follow through. 
    • Provide opportunities for students to provide formative course evaluation feedback such as after taking an exam or at midterms. Debrief the feedback, explain rationale, admit failures and make changes where appropriate.  
  • Provide opportunities for students to disclose concerns or things they might be anxious about. This can open doors for individual support or referrals. Example:
    • Last question on a syllabus quiz asks “Is there anything you would like me to know about you and how I can best support you this semester?” Responses may allow you to address barriers, help them select a different course, clarify expectations, and/or build confidence about their potential to succeed in your course.

Student Communication, Advising, Mentoring

  • When possible, state grading rubrics clearly and follow them.
  • State rules and consequences regarding late assignment submissions clearly and follow them uniformly with every student.
  • Constantly remind students that there are resources available to help them (e.g., office hours or scheduled meetings with faculty, online tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, and tutoring). These options will vary with each course.
    • Include a statement in the syllabus that says how you are willing to support students. Example: “I want you to succeed!  For assistance with this course, contact me through email, stop by my office during office hours, or make an appointment. In addition to helping you with course content, I can also provide information about campus resources and careers options in (major).”

Course Structure

  • Design and require a larger number of smaller assignments, rather than a smaller number of larger assignments, especially early in the course. This allows students to demonstrate their understanding (or lack thereof) sooner rather than later. It also allows faculty to provide interim feedback.
  • Utilize peer reviews. 
  • Consider adjusting submission deadlines to earlier than 11:59pm in favor of healthy sleep habits. Be explicit about this reasoning. Allow students to appeal for flexibility if needed according to individual circumstances.  For students that work night shifts, consider assignments due an hour before class begins.
  • Avoid structuring assignments to require work over holidays and semester breaks in favor of downtime for students. Be explicit about this reasoning. 
  • State the purpose of assignments and what tools are needed to complete them.
  • Give homework that is similar in task to exams.
  • Be organized, pleasant, and on time for your classes.  Model behavior that you (the instructor) want your students to exhibit.  If you fall from your standard (as we all will), apologize and carry on.
  • Consider predictability.
    • Plan a pattern of due dates/feedback to occur on the same day(s) of the week and time of day. For example, units/topics always end on Thursday and exams/quizzes always open from Thursday - Sunday. Students receive feedback on Tuesday.  
    • Establish Routines. Examples: 
      • Online courses: Post weekly video announcements same day and time each week
      • Face to face courses: Start/end lectures in similar way each day
      • Use similar exam prep and debrief procedures for each exam
  • Add the Mental Well-Being Course as an assignment for your class. Click here for instructions.