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Redesign a Gateway Course

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Since gateway courses can be a student’s first exposure to the content, practices, and norms of a discipline, they can significantly shape a student’s sense of belonging and prospective success in it. Designing IDEAL gateway courses promises to promote the belonging, learning, retention, and success of all students in individual fields and higher education more broadly.

Gateway courses are introductory courses for a particular program of study. These are typically larger courses taken by students from a range of backgrounds and with varying degrees of prior preparation. Gateway courses often shape a student’s continued success in major/minor programs and college, since they build foundational skills such as critical thinking, effective group work, clarity in written and spoken thought, and problem-solving.

Research indicates that historically underrepresented students show disproportionately lower rates of success in gateway courses, retention in associated degree programs, and college graduation rates.

More Team Project Ideas

Steps to consider

  • Integrate diverse scholars into the course curriculum
    (Module 1: Including Diverse Representation)
  • Foster diverse participation strategies and equitable group work
    (Module 2: Integrating Peer-to-Peer Learning)
  • Craft a clear and inviting syllabus, and set collective class norms
    (IDEAL Syllabus Guide and Module 3: Creating a Positive Course Community)
  • Provide course and co-curricular structural support for students
    (Module 4: Making Success Accessible) 
  • Design multi-faceted and diverse assessments, with explicit evaluation criteria and timely feedback
    (Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Explicitly discuss teaching team positionality and backgrounds
    (Module 6: Anti-Racist Pedagogy)
  • Invite faculty members from within the department to speak about their work and to help students contextualize the field
  • Define opportunities for students outside of the classroom: research, internships, opportunities at Stanford and beyond
  • Build a peer mentoring program; for example, see STEMentors in the Chemistry Department

Go to the IDEAL Pedagogy Canvas course to explore the learning modules referenced above.

Stanford examples and resources

See how the Chemistry Department and the Graduate School of Education redesigned introductory science and engineering classes to address barriers for historically marginalized students in "Education researchers partner with STEM instructors to make courses more inclusive" (Stanford Report).


Campbell, R., and Blankenship, B. (2021) “Implementation Plans for Course Redesigns: An Exploration of Identified StrategiesTo Improve the Academy: A Journal of Educational Development 40 (2). 

Fischer, C., Nguyen, H., Estrella. G., and Collins, P. (2022) “Examining Lecture and Inquiry-Based Laboratory Performance for Language Minority Students in Science Gateway Courses.” PLOS ONE 17 (4): e0267188.

Austin, D.W.; Atencio, M., Yeung, F., Stein, J., Mathur, D., Ivester, S., Woods, D.R. (2019) Diversity and Inclusion Curriculum: Addressing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and the Achievement Gap at a Racially Diverse University. Currents in Teaching & Learning, 11(1), 112-134.

Kinzie, J. et al. “Promoting Persistence and Success of Underrepresented Students: Lessons for 

Teaching and Learning.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning no. 115, 21-38. 2018.

Salehi, et al. "Inclusive Instructional Practices: Course Design, Implementation, and Discourse." Frontiers in Education, Vol 6, 1 October, 2021.

Kelly A. Hogan and Viji Sathy. (2022) Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom.

Kinzie, J. et al. “Promoting Persistence and Success of Underrepresented Students: Lessons for Teaching and Learning.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning no. 115, 21-38. 2018.

Susan D. Blum (2020) Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead).

Joe Feldman (2018) Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms.