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Supporting Your Students

We hope this page will provide you with the necessary tools to support your diverse student body, whether through applying the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) or through putting students in contact with Student Learning Support.

The LTO has curated a slide deck on student well-being services. Ryerson faculty and instructors are free to share these slides with their students. The deck highlights various initiatives that are available to students on campus that support their well-being and academic success. 

Some suggested ways to share this resource with your students:


Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the design of instructional materials and activities that allow learning goals to be achieved by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember (Ivy Access Initiative, Brown University)

The essential qualities of UDL include valuing each learner’s unique perspectives and accommodating individual differences in learners’ backgrounds, interests, abilities, and experiences.

The cardinal rule of UDL is that there is no single method for representing information that will provide equal access for all students; no single method of expression that will provide equal opportunity for all students; no single way to ensure that all students are engaged in learning because any method that works for some students may present barriers to learning for others (ERIC/ OSEP, 1998; as cited by Mino , 2004). Accordingly Universal Instructional Design emphasize flexibility in curriculum and instruction.

This information on this page is excerpted from a report compiled by the Universal Design for Learning subcommittee of the University Access Advisory Committee.

Download the full report [pdf]


Read the transcript for "Introduction to Universal Design" [pdf]


Principles of Universal Design for Learning

There are general principles that guide UDL in and outside of the classroom.  Most of the principles identified at various post-secondary institutions are simply good teaching pedagogy.  Below is a list of principles compiled by Ohio State University:

  • Identify the essential course content.
  • Clearly express the essential content.
  • Integrate natural supports for learning (i.e. using resources already found in the environment such as study buddies).
  • Use a variety of instructional methods when presenting material.
  • Allow for multiple methods of demonstrating understanding of essential course content.
  • Use technology to increase accessibility.
  • Invite students to meet/contact the course instructor with any questions/concerns (Fast Facts for Faculty, Ohio State University)


Best Practices in UDL

Most universities favour three best practices in UDL:


A variety of methods are used to present course content (e.g. lecture, web, text, audio) (Fast Facts for Faculty, Ohio State University).


A variety of teaching methods are used to capture the student’s attention (discussions, reflections, individual projects, etc).


The instructor allows students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways and is flexible for students who have barriers in expression (e.g. oral presentations for those with reading disabilities) (Fast Facts for Faculty, Ohio State University).

The following recommendations were developed based on our review of higher education institutions in Canada and the United States, a literature review, and stakeholder surveys.



Read the transcript for "Syllabus / Outline in Universal Design" [pdf]

The course syllabus should be considered a document that students rely on to plan for their upcoming year. A course syllabus should contain course goals, course description, course objectives, learning outcomes, instructor contact information, accommodation statements, assessment strategies, policies on missed classes and late assignments, weights of assessed material, due dates, schedule of class topics, associated readings and activities by date, a list of student resources (e.g. Writing Centre, Math Assistance Centre, Access Centre, Centre for Student Development and Counselling, etc).


Course Delivery

Read the transcript for "Course Delivery and Universal Design" [pdf]

Based on the principles outlined above, faculty should use a variety of teaching methods, use natural supports, and encourage student engagement through face-to-face interaction and technology.

  • Identify course objectives and learning outcomes in their individual courses
  • Course expectations should be explicit and delivered in multiple formats (e.g. verbally, on the course outline, on the course web page)
  • Use multiple means of presenting material in class, including, where appropriate, lecturing, activities (e.g. demonstrations, laboratories, group projects, case studies), video, technology, etc.
  • Present single concepts in more than one way (e.g. a demonstration followed by a lecture explaining relevant concepts)
  • If using presentation technology, faculty should be sure slides are easy to read (i.e. large font, not too text-heavy).
  • Encourage natural supports within their class (e.g. peer-to-peer mentoring, use of office hours, teaching assistants, study groups, opportunities for questions, etc.)
  • Encourage faculty-student engagement (e.g. use of office hours, email, web postings, discussion boards, etc.).
  • Use technology to enhance learning (e.g. clickers, Google drive, web 2.0, etc.).
  • Consider posting notes for difficult concepts, or a providing a simplified version of the slides used in class.
  • When lecturing, moderate language, replacing terms such as “this or that” with specific descriptions.
  • Encourage student participation in multiple ways (e.g. questions, small groups, pairing students, discussions, etc.).
  • Consider creating guided notes (notes where some material is left off) that students can use during lecture. *
  • Update course material annually, keeping the course relevant and current.
  • Repeat important concepts and provide additional examples of these concepts.
  • Relate important course concepts to real life through the use of news stories, personal stories, research stories, and case studies.
  • Assist students, especially junior students, in learning study techniques, writing, and numeracy
  • If planning to provide materials to students, do so before the class day so students may print or use them as a guide during lecture.
  • Review the previous day’s content at the beginning of class and allow students to ask questions, and summarize important points at the end of each class.
  • Give students a short break part way through class.
  • Allow students to record lectures or use note takers.
  • Repeat student questions before answering.
  • When lecturing, ensure that all students can see and hear them, as well as see the PowerPoint or board.
  • Submit videos to the Ryerson Library for captioning services well in advance of needing them for class
  • Allow students to ask questions without raising their hand.
  • Provide verbal explanations for PowerPoint slides, material on the board, and any graphs or charts used in class.
  • If distributing printed materials (e.g. tests), provide printed materials in black and white
  • Consider using a textbook that is available electronically as well as in print editions (offering it in larger print)
  • In laboratories, be aware of any student in need of accommodations. Ensure that all chemicals and equipment are clearly labeled.


Student Resources

Read the transcript for "Student Resources and Universal Design" [pdf]

Student resources include those for accommodation and those provided by Student Services.

  • Work with the Access Centre to determine, identify, and implement resources that can assist students with accommodations inside and outside of class.
  • Highlight on-campus student services that would assist all students in learning (e.g. English Language Support, Library, Writing Centre, Math Assistance Centre, Health Centre, etc).
  • Encourage (where appropriate) students to bring copies of assignments when using supports (e.g. Writing Centre, Math Assistance, Library research skills workshops).
  • Recognize and support student self-advocacy.


Student Assessment

Read the transcript for "Student Assessment and Universal Design" [pdf]

The gold standard for Universal Design and student assessments is diversity, choice and flexibility. Professors should note that while it is important that assessments be “fair,” this does not mean that assessments must be “the same.” Assessments should be designed according to these principles. With these principles in mind, here are some recommendations for instructing professors about including Universal Design in their assessments.

  1. Learning assessments should reflect the course goals and should be designed in a backwards manner: Backward design begins by developing course objectives and then outlining appropriate means of assessing whether these objectives have been met by students in a way that reflects the course goals.
  2. Assessment should be flexible: Assessment should use a combination of modes of expression (e.g. writing, speaking, drawing, making, presenting) to demonstrate the learning of course content. Choice and variety in demonstrating mastery of necessary course skills and content is key. For example, some students might not do as well at timed tests and would do better if offered take-home tests. In contrast, other students might have difficulties with take-home tests (e.g. due to family responsibilities) and would do better with timed tests. Allowing students a choice of assessment method can help meet their individual requirements. In addition, consider that there might be a number of ways to demonstrate mastery of the course material. Offering multiple methods of assessment (even if students are not given a choice of assessment) will assist students in demonstrating knowledge.
  3. Deadlines should be flexible: Some students with disabilities will experience good weeks and bad weeks, and these cannot always be predicted in advance. Avoid deadlines that are too harsh (e.g. if not handed in on time the student gets a zero). Instead allow for negotiation.
  4. Assignments should give opportunities for feedback: It is helpful to give students feedback throughout the process of completing longer assignments.  Consider having parts of these assignments due at different stages and provide feedback along the way.
  5. The Access Centre can be an invaluable resource: If professors are unsure about whether their assessment methods are fair and accessible, the Access Centre can help ensure that tests are accessible to diverse student needs (e.g. online tests can be read by electronic readers, graphs can be translated by readers for visually impaired students, etc.). In addition, faculty should consult with the Access Centre if concerned about individual accommodations.


Course Web Pages

Read the transcript for "Course Web Pages and Universal Design" [pdf]

Faculty will likely need resources and assistance to perform many of the following requirements. However, below are issues that will need to be addressed for faculty.  It should be clear that these issues need to be considered but may not necessarily be the responsibility of individual faculty.  For example, faculty should have alt tags and captioning for their materials but may not be responsible for creating these alt tags or captioning.

Course web pages should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and work with current and future technologies (W3C, 2004).

  1. Perceivable: Images, charts and graphs should be alt tagged with helpful descriptions, high contrast text and backgrounds should be used (e.g. black on white), captions and audio transcripts should be provided for audio and video clips, and color alone should not be used to convey meaning.
  2. Operable: Links and buttons should be accessible through tabbing from the keyboard, a method to skip navigation should be provided so users go directly to a content page, and multimedia players should be operable with the keyboard as well as with the mouse.
  3. Understandable: Links are descriptive and pages are structured with headings, tables include a header, and the pages read in the expected order.
  4. Robust: The website (including PDFs and documents) can be read with a variety of browsers and assistive technology (University of Arkansas).


Online Delivery

Read the transcript for "Online Delivery and Universal Design" [pdf]

To implement the principles of universal design in online learning, it is recommended that faculty and instructors plan for the diverse range of students that enroll in online courses. The planning should include tools and strategies to enhance the accessibility and usability of the course for students with and without disabilities.

All the UDL principles applied in the face-to-face classroom may be applied online with particular emphasis on the following:

  1. Communication should be based on inclusive language, with clear expectations (e.g. model and teach good discussion board etiquette).
  2. At the beginning of any online course, welcome all students and provide basic navigational and course management information and advice
  3. Ensure that your course page has consistent navigation and simple design. Student should be able to locate materials and content easily through the learning management system. In addition students should find standard course structure across various courses.
  4. Use accessible technology within the learning management system or when asking students to use social media or external web tools (wikis, blogs, etc.).
  5. Follow best practices for accessible web pages, documents, and multimedia components:
    • Ensure that captions and transcripts are available for audio-visual material, convert PowerPoint presentations to accessible HTML content.
    • Make auditory materials visual and the visual materials auditory.
    • Provide students with accessible downloads for necessary plugins, example: Adobe Flash or Adobe Reader.
    • Use clear formatting: backgrounds, color, links, fonts.
  6. Utilize accessible technologies and provide guidance on how to obtain specific accessibility related accommodations.
  7. Online courses should be designed to facilitate readability and minimize distractions.
  8. Online courses should be designed to accommodate the use of assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers, etc.
Diversity and Inclusive Teaching

Spend even a minute wandering the halls of Ryerson University, and you’ll be impressed with the diversity of the student body. Supporting and engaging students from such a variety of backgrounds and cultural experiences can be a challenge. This page provides links to several documents produced by the LTO to assist instructors in working with a diverse student body, as well as links to other Ryerson resources.

Documents available for download:


Resources at Ryerson

Supporting EAL Students

Supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners

The LTO, in partnership with English Language Support, and the Writing & English Language Proficiency Working Group have developed this page for faculty members teaching students who use English as an additional language (EAL).

Many Ryerson students use English as their second (or third or fourth) language, and some are still in the learning stages of mastering English. Some also need to make a cultural transition to a different type of educational system. The presence of students from EAL backgrounds is an important part of Ryerson’s academic and cultural make-up. These students bring different perspectives to the learning process, they create links with diverse communities, and they bring meaning to the term internationalization.

These webpages provide information and advice about working effectively with the multilingual population at Ryerson:


  • Who are English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners? [pdf]
    This handout looks at the different literacy backgrounds of EAL students, what challenges they face, and discusses ways to prevent problems before they arise.
  • Language Differences & Error Correction [pdf]
    It is useful to know something about the nature of the English language in order to better understand the major differences between English and other world languages. Common errors in English are often a result of a non-native English speaker's mother tongue. This handout may help instructors to anticipate the characteristic difficulties of EAL learners, and to better understand how these difficulties arise; error correction is also discussed.
  • Supporting EAL Writers [pdf]
    EAL students' problems usually do not involve a lack of ideas. Their primary writing problems typically involve difficulty expressing concepts and ideas in English. This handout discusses Assignment Design and how to provide Effective Feedback.


If you can't find the answer you're looking for in the above documents, check our FAQ and our Resources for Teachers of EAL Students, or use our submission form to ask your own question of our ELS experts.

Support for English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners

Contact English Language Support, part of Student Learning Support, for more information about supporting Ryerson students who use English as an additional language:

English Language Support
341 Yonge Street, 4th floor, Student Learning Centre Toronto, Ontario, M5B 1S1
Telephone: (416) 598-5978

Supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners

Resources for Teachers of English as an Additional Language (EAL) Students

This page of resources is also available as a pdf.

For Instructors

  • Swan, M. & Smith, B. (Eds.) 2001. Learner English: A teacher’s guide to interference and other problems. Cambridge Press.
    • This is a practical reference book that compares the relevant features of students’ mother-tongues with English, helping teachers to predict and understand the problems their students have.
  • English grammar & usage: language topics that non-language teachers may wish to learn more about in order to better understand the difficulties faced by EAL students in their classes.
  • Language Differences: Useful information about the differences between English and various other languages


For Instructors & Their Students

  • Many useful resources can be found on Ryerson's English Language Support website.
  • Useful Resources & Exercises for EAL Students from the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers.
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): Hundreds of resources to explore, e.g. The Paramedic Method: useful for teaching students how to cut down on wordiness in their writing.
  • Common Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words from Michigan State University. Students may come across words that are new or words that are familiar but used in ways that they have not encountered. This site is helpful as it alerts students to the meanings of word roots, prefixes and suffixes.
  • You Quote It, You Note It from Acadia University.This tutorial is a fun way for students to learn some of the basics about plagiarism, citation, summary, and paraphrase (offers only APA and MLA).
  • VisuWords: Visuwords is an open source online graphical dictionary and thesaurus (based on WordNet). Valuable for EAL students who are concerned about word choice or who seek synonyms, antonyms, or alternate forms of words.
  • Guide to Grammar and Writing: This site is especially valuable for the online quizzes where students can practice correcting grammatical errors and improve their vocabulary.
  • Grammar Girl podcast: These concise, non-intimidating podcasts by a professional writer/editor on a range of grammar & usage issues can be listened to while commuting, between classes, etc.


Apps for iPhones & Smart Phones

  • Mobile ELS: A free ESL application developed by Athabasca University. This course tests your knowledge of English grammar and, more importantly, it gives you practice in using your knowledge to make correct and appropriate sentences. Grammar has meaning - if you change some of the grammar in a sentence, you also change its meaning.
  • English Accent Coach: A website and mobile app to help non-native English speakers fine-tune their English pronunciation. This interactive online game that trains the brain to recognize new sounds
  • Sounds, an app developed by McMillan Education, is a mobile English pronunciation aid, for students and teachers. Sounds helps you study, practice, and play with pronunciation wherever you are. Works with apple iPhone, iPad, and Android OS devices.
  • Learning English with The New York Times: Learning English with The New York Times is an opportunity for second-language English speakers to improve reading and listening skills, and learn new vocabulary. This app is designed specifically for intermediate to advanced English language learners.
  • My Word Coach: Enjoyable and fun activities include word recognition, spelling challenges and vocabulary definition, including 16,800 words from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. My Word Coach also adapts its difficulty level to match your skills, and monitors and rewards your progress to help you express yourself better!
  • English Grammar in Use Activities: A massive bundle of fun grammar activities with imagery and sound, written specially for intermediate learners of English. Turn spare time into study time, and strengthen your grasp of English grammar.
  • 10 Minute English: This app is for intermediate-level learners of English. It will help you with your grammar, vocabulary, and listening comprehension. It covers the most important grammar points that English learners have difficulties with.
  • Grammar Girl: Great tips to help you write more intelligently and effectively.
  • English at Work: Helps second language English students practice and improve their use of workplace English and Business English.


Other Resources

Useful for advanced EAL students who want to improve listening, reading, and vocabulary.

  • Television News, such as CBC, BBC World News, CNN. You can also personalize the app to suit your interests and download content for offline browsing.
  • Newspapers and Magazines, such as The Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, The Economist, Maclean’s.


More Questions

Contact English Language Support for more information about supporting Ryerson students who use English as an additional language:

English Language Support
VIC-B17 (Victoria Building - Lower Level)
Telephone: (416) 979-5000 ext. 4682

Supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)




What portion of Ryerson students are English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners?

This kind of information is not collected. Currently, we only know how many of our students have to write an English Proficiency Test to satisfy the English language requirements for admission - these are students who have been in Canada for 4 years or less.


Should I let students talk in their native language?

Many students, who are not yet totally fluent in English, need to understand certain things in their mother tongue and then translate it into English. At a certain stage, language learners also engage in code switching, i.e. switching from their mother tongue into their second or third language as the situation requires, and vice versa. This is all part of the language learning journey. However, when students resort to their native language, and by doing so exclude other students from their discussion, they should be discouraged from doing so and encouraged to use English, the lingua franca.


How can I encourage participation from EAL students in class?

Allow input that is not linguistically demanding, e.g. short answers, keyword searches. Also, elicit responses from EAL students who are at the top of the class, thus creating positive reactions from other students and allowing EAL students to shine.


How can I help EAL students participate in group work?

Group work may be unfamiliar to many EAL students, and can be stressful, as their input is not valued and they are often assigned a peripheral role in the group. Attention needs to be given when designing group assignments so that the group’s grades will not suffer because some students’ language skills are weaker. Create diverse groups where each group member assumes a role that matches his/her strengths. 


How can I help students avoid plagiarism?

Many EAL students come from cultural and educational systems where concepts of scholarship and individual ownership of ideas are very different from that of North America. A student`s abundant use of quotations may reflect a cultural tradition of respect for authority, not a lack of critical thinking, and plagiarism may be unintentional. Ways to encourage critical analysis and help students avoid plagiarism:

  • Discuss different cultural views on sources, texts, reference conventions, and plagiarism. Explain what is expected of them in your course.
  • For course readings, have students keep reading logs in which they summarize arguments, write their thoughts, make connections with other sources, describe difficulties with the readings, and ask questions.
  • Explain when to quote, when to paraphrase, when to reference, and when to summarize. Use examples from your own writing and that of previous students. Paraphrasing and summarizing effectively are skills that need to be learned and practiced. Think of assigning practice summarizing and paraphrasing exercises in the context of your writing assignment.



What should I do if I don't have time to correct all errors on a student's paper?

Although well intentioned, correcting sentence level errors does not promote learning. Focusing mostly on grammar errors, which seems easier to do than focusing on organization or logical development, conveys to students that correctness supersedes meaning. However, if you want to help your EAL students address grammar errors, here are some helpful ways to respond to grammar errors:

  • Highlight one or two types of errors that seem to occur frequently in a student's paper. Explain the correct usage and give a few examples if you can.
  • Just point out the problem and let the student do the fixing. If you correct the grammar, do so for only one paragraph so the student can see how to make corrections themselves.
  • Advise the student to keep a log of errors – this should be consulted in order to avoid recurring errors on future assignments.
  • Have student book an individual appointment at English Language Support – these sessions help EAL students with their written assignments.



How do I give meaningful feedback to EAL students' written work?

Multilingual students need both content and form-based feedback on their writing.

  • Do not overwhelm students: Go easy on the corrections and comment.
  • Prioritize comments: Some errors, such as articles (a, an, the), take a long time for multilingual students to master. When providing feedback, focus on errors that interfere with clarity that are repeated throughout the paper and do not just seem accidental.
  • Know your students: Try to become more familiar with some of the common language problems they have, For example, Spanish speakers have difficulty with the following:
    • Prepositions: Spanish only has one preposition, en, for the English equivalent of in, at, on.
    • Articles: While Spanish has articles, they are sometimes used differently from English. However this usually does not interfere with meaning, making them less important errors.
    • Comma usage and run-on sentences: Some students need help breaking up run-on sentences and need to be shown how to use commas effectively. It often helps to have a student read his or her work aloud, as this demonstrates the rhythm of the language, and where commas should be appropriately placed.
    • Verbs: a common error among many non-native English writers includes problems with subject-verb agreement (i.e. using a plural verb for singular subject, e.g. Ryerson have a large number of multilingual students).



How can I best assist a student with extremely limited English speaking and writing abilities?

Such a student could benefit from Lower Level Liberal courses that are designed for students whose first language is not English. In order for them to be able to take one or more of these courses, they need to take the Online Placement Test.

In addition, they should be directed to English Language Support (ELS) which provides individualized help with writing and speaking. Have your student email


What is the difference between English Language Support and Writing Support (formerly the Writing Centre)?

Both are units of Student Learning Support (Office of the Vice-Provost Students) and are located on the 4th floor of the Student Learning Centre. The two units complement each other. All students are welcome at Writing Support, regardless of first language, whereas non-native speakers of English should be referred to ELS. All programs and services are free of charge to Ryerson students.

English Language Support: ELS provides non-credit programs for students who use English as an additional language. All language skill areas are supported, i.e. reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Individual appointments, group sessions, and distance learning is provided. Both ELS and Writing Support now offer writing support appointments via Adobe Connect for students who find it difficult to make on-campus appointments.

Writing Support: By offering thoughtful reader response to student writing, Writing Support staff strive to engage students in conversations about their writing and their writing processes. This is done in various settings ranging from one-on-one consultations, group programs, workshops and in-class visits. Writing Support's goal is to help students develop competence and confidence with academic writing conventions.


What other supports for EAL students are available on campus?

In addition to having your students connect with English language Support and Writing Support (see previous question), many students could benefit from taking Lower Level Liberal Study courses – LNG 111, 112 and/or 113 that have been specially designed to help students develop their vocabulary, as well as improve their grammar and writing skills.


Is support available to graduate students?

All Ryerson graduate students, regardless of first language, are welcome to use the services provided by Graduate Student Support. Various workshops are offered, and editorial assistance is provided - attention is given to organization, phrasing, clarity, word choice, etc., as used in the kinds of writing relevant to graduate work. Students may also book appointments for assistance with introductory LaTeX, Matlab, Maple, SPSS, and for presentation practice. As well, the Graduate Student Support website provides many useful resources, and material for download.


Does Ryerson offer ESL classes?

The ESL/EAL Certificate Program at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education provides a wide spectrum of non-degree courses at the intermediate (first) level and the advanced (second) level to everyone who is interested in improving their pronunciation, speaking skills, grammar, reading and writing. All ESL/EAL Certificate Program’s courses are aimed at individuals preparing for entry to postsecondary education or seeking to improve their career advancement in the professional job market. Intensive 100-hour courses (COEN 460 and COEN 461) are offered to potential or current students or professionals who wish to upgrade their academic and professional skills during the Spring/Summer term.

The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education also offers the University Foundation Program for International Students. The Ryerson University Foundation Program (RUFP) provides high-quality ESL programming that allows international students to study at the university level and improve their language skills. RUFP programming includes academic advising services and cultural immersion activities. Students who complete the RUFP can move on to Ryerson degree programs with university course credit and a strong foundation for academic success.


Are there technology aides for language instruction?

There is a plethora of resources, both for all aspects of language learning; however, these resources mostly call for the demonstration of grammar rules or vocabulary and utilize multiple choice methods, which are not the best ways of learning or improving one’s language skills at the university level. Blended learning has been shown to work well in advanced level language courses. Language learning should happen in a meaningful context and be guided by professionals. Having said this though, for those interested in self-directed study, please see the Resources [coming soon] page for useful apps and webinars.


How can I brush up on English grammar?

To become more familiar with language words for non-language teachers, visit Language Words for Non-Language Teachers.


Who can I contact if I have questions?





More Questions

Contact English Language Support for more information about supporting Ryerson students who use English as an additional language:

English Language Support
341 Yonge Street, 4th floor, Student Learning Centre Toronto, Ontario, M5B 2K3
Telephone: (416) 598-5978

Supporting Student Writers

The LTO has compiled a series of resources to support instructors who are working with student writers.

Instructors may find the following LTO handouts helpful:



Resources at Ryerson


Resources on the Web

Teaching and Supervising Graduate Students

Graduate student supervision can be a complex process. Most often, effective graduate supervision is informed by the faculty member’s own graduate school experience. Many faculty have contacted the LTO to ask about resources that might assist them in their supervisory role. In collaboration with the Yeates School of Graduate Studies, we at the LTO have developed some resources to assist.

Explore our pages of resources on designing and teaching graduate courses, supervising graduate research, and relevant policies for faculty who supervise graduate students.

Designing and Teaching Graduate Courses

The most crucial difference between teaching graduate and undergraduate students is the shift in the role of the professor from authority figure to facilitator. Good graduate leadership consists of:

  1. "Providing sufficient direction to students so they can fruitfully explore the subject matter on their own"
  2. "Fostering a classroom climate that encourages cooperation, collaboration, and the free exchange of ideas" (Neal)


Getting Started

When planning a graduate course, ask yourself the following questions

  1. “What are the disciplinary issues associated with the seminar topic?
  2. Do these issues suggest a framework for studying the topic?
  3. Which issues are appropriate for investigation by the students I will have?
  4. How will I provide the background and context for students to understand the issues?
  5. How can I relate these issues to the students' lives and academic interests?
  6. What excited me or stimulated my interest in this topic when I was a student, and how can I use my experience to motivate my students?
  7. How can I present the readings in such a way that students will think critically about the topic?
  8. What classroom activities can I use to stimulate critical thinking?
  9. What are the basic research tools in the discipline that students need to know?
  10. What classroom exercises can I use to help students learn about (or use) these tools?
  11. From my own experience, what insights about research can I contribute to the class?" (Neal)

Use the answer to these questions to write your course learning outcomes. Learning outcomes describe what students are expected to have learned or achieved; as a result, they usually describe what students will be capable of doing, or what evidence will be provided to substantiate learning. Learning outcomes are usually visible, demonstrable, measurable, or produce evidence to substantiate the learning.

As summarized by Deakin University, "each intended learning outcome should describe the observable knowledge or skills that you expect students to be able to demonstrate as a result of their work in the unit. It should contain:

  • A verb that is appropriate to the type of knowledge or skill required
  • A noun that describes the content that the verb is meant to address." (Deakin University)


For example:

"Describe and discuss an overview of various authors, major movements, and periods in Western literature"

These outcomes should be set at the appropriate level. To help match your course learning outcomes to the appropriate level of study, consult the Graduate Degree Level Expectations set for all Ontario universities.

Include a version of the outcomes, course goals, or the answers to your questions from above in the syllabus. This will help students understand the purpose of your course and see what they will get out of it.

For more information on writing course outcomes, see the LTO Teaching Tips documents:


Keep in mind that students will be more engaged with the material if they see it as relevant to their own work. Therefore it might be helpful to allow students to help set the direction of the class. Get to know your students and their reasons for taking your course and let that information help set the path for the course. One way to do this might be to ask the students to write a short “intellectual biography.” This in-depth version of the “minute paper,” or short questionnaire distributed to undergraduate students, can help you ascertain student experience, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Are your students coming directly from an undergraduate program, or are they returning to school after many years of professional experience? What do they hope to get out of your class? (Davis, 2009)


Teaching a Seminar-Style Course

Student’s willingness to participate in a seminar-style course is directly related to their confidence and experience. To help account for the varying abilities and comfort levels of your students, prepare them before class with ground rules, a brief agenda, and “a question or two they might think about and/or allocate specific reading to ensure the topic is kept in focus” (Johnson & Wales University)

To help break the ice in the classroom, help students get to know each other. Have students introduce themselves, or place tent cards with their names on their desks. Ask students to say their name at the beginning and end of the first class to help everyone remember (Johnson & Wales University).


Facilitating Discussion

Don’t lecture in a seminar. Sit at the level of the students and remind them to address each other and not you. Depend on the students doing their assigned readings. You can even have students start their own discussion by assigning them roles as presenters and respondents (Berkeley).

Your job as instructor is to facilitate the discussion. This can be done through the following:


  • "Pose the key questions.
  • Ask participants to relate their statements to particular passages, to clarify, and to elaborate.
  • If the conversation gets off track, refocus students on the opening question by restating it.
  • Monitor 'air time'
  • Use additional questions to move the discussion along.
  • Invite those who have not spoken into the conversation.
  • Record the main ideas discussed and the contributions people make (using a shorthand or diagram) to refer to as you facilitate.
  • Summarize the main points made in the discussion, either at a quiet point or towards the end of the discussion" (NWABR).


For more information on Facilitating Discussion, see the LTO Teaching Tips document:


Varying your class format helps hold student interest and enriches the learning experience. Active learning techniques have more often been integrated into the undergraduate classroom, however they have been shown to be effective in the graduate classroom as well. “In a study by H. W. Hughes and A. J. Townley, the authors described how they adapted standard cooperative learning approaches such as ‘Jigsaw,’ ‘Pairs and Squares,’ and ‘2 x 4 Debate’ for their graduate courses. Students felt that these techniques enhanced their skills in decision-making, human relations, communications, and academics and even improved their subject-matter knowledge” (University of Chicago)

To read more about these types of activities, see the LTO Teaching Tips document on “Active Learning” [pdf]


Setting Ground Rules for Discussion

Use the first day of class to review the ground rules for classroom discussions so that students will begin to see the class as a safe space to talk. Ground rules will differ from class to class, however here are a few potential items to include on any set of guidelines for discussion that you are providing your students:

  • “Listen carefully
  • Address one another respectfully
  • Base any opinions on the text
  • Address comments to the group (no side conversations)
  • Use sensitivity to take turns and not interrupt others
  • Be courageous in presenting your own thoughts and reasoning, but be flexible and willing to change your mind in the face of new and compelling evidence” (NWABR)


For more information on classroom contracts and the first day of class, see the LTO Teaching Tips documents:


Dealing with Conflict

Running a course as a long series of discussions can lead to conflict between students. To help minimize conflict, create a create a safe space for students in your classroom. If students feel that the instructor supports them, they will be more likely to participate in discussion. To make sure the classroom environment is a positive place for all students:

  1. Set ground rules for behavior in class and make sure all students are aware and understand these rules. Review these rules periodically throughout the term.
  2. Anticipate controversial course material, and think in advance as to how you will deal with potential disagreements or arguments around sensitive topics.
  3. Encourage students to listen actively and to be aware of others' perspectives. “For example, you can ask each student to restate the other person's point in a manner satisfactory to that person before they respond to it. This will help prevent careless arguing.”
  4. Don’t ignore disturbing remarks, even if they are unrelated to course material. If you don’t call students out on their prejudice, your silence may be read as an unofficial endorsement.
  5. “Reflect disturbing statements back to the speaker by repeating them very slowly and accurately... After repeating the remark, invite the student to speak again. Often, hearing the words repeated back non-judgmentally will cause the student to rephrase the remark, changing the language and sometimes the meaning and intent in the process" (Derek Bok Center; University of Virginia)

If the discussion gets too heated, stop the class and find the part of the disruption that can be used for further discussion.

  1. “Ask students to think about how their reactions mirror the subject at hand, and what they might learn about the subject from their own behavior or experience… use the passion as a vehicle to talk about differences in kinds and levels of discourse.”
  2. If the class remains agitated or polarized, shift pedagogical strategies, allowing them to break into small groups to discuss their assumptions, or write short reflective papers discussing the incident and then share their response with a classmate.
  3. When time allows, you can “ask the students to write a brief response paper for the next class. In it they could outline their opinion on the topic, explain other viewpoints, or explain the possible implications of the points under discussion. To help develop their understanding of multiple perspectives, you could ask them to argue the position they disagree with in their paper.” (Derek Bok Center; University of Virginia)

For more information on creating safe classroom spaces, see the LTO Teaching Tips document on "The Multicultural Classroom."

For help with Conflict Resolution, see the LTO Teaching Tips document on Case Method and Group Work


Work Cited

Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning. Ways to Make Your Teaching More Effective.

Davis, B.G. (2009). Tools for Teaching. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Deakin University. Writing Intended Learning Outcomes.

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Teaching in Racially Diverse College Classrooms. Harvard University.

Johnson & Wales University (JWU). Ten Tips for Effective Seminar Teaching.

Neal, E. Leading the Seminar: Graduate and Undergraduate. Essays on Teaching Excellence.

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR). Socratic Seminar Teaching.

University of Virginia, Teaching Resource Centre. Teaching a Diverse Student Body: Dealing With Conflicts.

Supervising Graduate Research

Faculty who supervise graduate research should become familiar with the Ryerson specific policies and procedures [pdf] set out by the Yeates School of Graduate Studies.

While these official guidelines can often sound very formal, there are often many underlying expectations held by both graduate students and their supervisors. The Graduate Student Association Council at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a survey of both graduate students and their supervisors to uncover some of these deeply held expectations.

Expectations that advisors have of their students:

  1. To take initiative in learning material that is needed in doing their research
  2. To work hard on their dissertation project, in terms of time and effort and also in terms of involving themselves creatively and intellectually
  3. To meet together regularly in order to report on their progress and ask questions and to inform of any difficulties encountered
  4. To keep up with developments in their area by attending seminars and lectures on related material and by reading research results in recent papers
  5. To seek to attend conferences and workshops that are closely related to their research
  6. To learn to give clear oral presentations both of elementary material (TA material) and of advance material (own research material)
  7. To write up their research results clearly and to present them in a timely way
  8. To be conscientious in meeting their responsibilities as grad students
  9. To interact with other graduate students and faculty concerning advanced material
  10. To apply for post-graduate school jobs in an organized, thorough and timely manner, seeking faculty advice in the process

Expectations that students have of their advisors…

  1. To give them guidance on finding and refining a dissertation topic
  2. To meet with them regularly in order to hear about their research progress and to offer suggestions and feedback
  3. To suggest changes in research direction if they find themselves running into roadblocks
  4. To look over research material that they have written and given to advisor, and then to give them comments on that
  5. To give them a sense of how much progress they are making and how far along they seem to be in the dissertation process
  6. To inform them of seminars, conference, etc. that would be beneficial for them to attend, and research papers that they should read
  7. To help them deal with difficulties that they may face in their role as graduate student or TA
  8. To guide them through their job search, especially in the case of those applying for academic jobs
  9. To write letters or recommendation for them both during and after graduate school
  10. To inform others in the relevant research community about the student’s work in a way that will help the student become known in that community

When these expectations go unmet, this can cause conflicts between supervisors and graduate students. To avoid these conflicts, there are some best practices that the LTO recommends.

Before agreeing to supervise a student, a faculty member should make sure they are the right person for the job. The University of Melbourne recommends asking yourself the following questions before agreeing to supervise a student:

  1. Do I have the adequate disciplinary background to advise this student or is the project likely to head into academic terrain that is very unfamiliar to me?
  2. Is my expertise strong enough in the methodological approach the project requires?
  3. Am I truly interested in the proposed study and in what ways does it relate to my own research interests?
  4. Thinking of my total academic commitments, in particular my supervisory commitments, do I have time to do justice to this student’s needs?
  5. Does the department (or the university) have resources for the specific needs of this project? (CSHE)

The First Meeting

After agreeing to supervise a student, faculty should use the first meeting to work out the expectations held by the faculty member and student, the structure of their relationship, and the timelines for the student’s work. Setting out all these expectations and working through them with a student you have agreed to supervise will help reduce misunderstandings and conflicts.

According to the University of Pennsylvania, this first meeting should cover:

  • Frequency of contact
  • Preferred communication method
  • Timelines for each stage of the work
  • Frequency of submission of work (in writing or through presentation)
  • Type of feedback expected
  • Hours of work to be put in by student
  • Nature of any directed reading program
  • Monitoring, evaluation, and reporting of progress
  • Additional training, fieldwork requirements
  • Whether publication is expected. Whether papers will be presented at conferences. Expectations regarding co-authorship.
  • Whether any funding is available and for what.
  • Intellectual property issues.
  • Establishment and membership of the dissertation committee.


Drafting an Agreement

After this initial meeting, Simon Fraser University recommends then drafting an agreement between yourself and the students you will be supervising. This helps works through all the potential concerns held by both parties, and ensures that there are no misunderstandings. They have provided examples of several sample agreements, one of which is excerpted below:

Dear new student,

This letter sets out a preliminary agreement of my supervision of your master’s project on “a very important topic”. It is understood that the agreement may need revision, depending on the direction your research takes.

For the first two semesters you will be taking courses and completing your research design (to be presented at the end of the spring semester). I suggest that we meet once a month during the first semester. During the second semester, when you will be working on your research design, we should meet more frequently. I expect you to be in the field in the summer, and we will set up a schedule for the following year when you return from the field.

I expect you to be prepared for meetings, and I hope that you will e-mail me in advance of topics you want to discuss. I will give you advance warning if a meeting needs to be re-scheduled.

With regard to your research, I can assist you in developing a research design, and can introduce you to people working in the region. However, I expect you to be primarily responsible for developing the research questions, and assessing the data needs of the research. Provided that your research is largely your own, I do not expect to be a co-author of any publications arising from the research. If I believe that I have significant intellectual input into an aspect of the research, I may suggest that we co-author a publication. You would have publication rights to anything in the completed thesis.

I am not in a position to fund your research from my research grant. I will assist you in applying for internal and external research funding.

A possible time line for the completion of your studies from course work to thesis defence is attached.

This time line will be revised at regular meetings of your supervisory committee required by the department for the purposes of assessing progress.


Effective Graduate Supervision

Effective supervisors have several characteristics that help define their success: flexibility, availability, trust, and respect. As defined by Western University, these characteristics represent the following qualities:

  1. Flexibility: An effective supervisor can identify their students’ strengths and weaknesses, and have at their disposal a “repertoire of skills for working effectively within this range of differences.”
  2. Availability: The quality of availability doesn’t just mean that the supervisor has made sufficient time to work with the student, and uses it efficiently, but also that they have made themselves appear open and approachable.
  3. Trust and respect: An effective supervisory relationship necessarily must be a supportive one. Students need to feel comfortable in the relationship and vice versa, and the responsibility of establishing this climate of mutual respect falls on the supervisor. This also comes down to being seen as approachable and open to discussion. Providing constructive feedback, and being forthcoming with praise for good work will help ensure the student will be more forthcoming with their difficulties when they arise.

The University of Melbourne recommends the following practices of effective supervisors. Effective supervisors:

  1. Get to know students and carefully assess their needs: Find out what knowledge and skills students bring to the partnership, as well as where their weaknesses are and how you will help address those shortcomings.
  2. Work with students to establish a strong conceptual structure and research plan: In this area, the experience of the supervisor is crucial to the success of a student’s project. Help students construct the best possible research proposal – review their objectives, their methodology, and their timelines. Work with them to determine what research is most valuable to the field and to their career, help them find the right scale for their project, and help them locate resources that will help them complete their project.
  3. Encourage students to write early and often: Provide students with focused writing tasks from a very early stage in their project. These literature reviews, conceptual frameworks, reports, or critical summaries can not only serve as the basis for thesis chapters, conference papers, or articles, but also prevent the task of writing from becoming daunting later in the process. This can also help students find their voice and work on their style, so that they can iron out any major difficulties they are having before having to tackle overwhelming revisions to their thesis. 
  4. Initiate regular contact and provide high quality feedback: Providing students with regular and constructive feedback helps them stay on track with their work. The form this feedback takes is crucial. “What students value in feedback is confirmation of their success (it’s easy to overlook the things that are going well), unambiguous identification of problem areas, and suggestions for how to tackle them.
  5. Get students involved in the life of the department: Graduate students often feel isolated by their work. Being made to feel like they are part of an academic and collegial community goes a long way to bolster their morale.
  6. Inspire and motivate: "From the beginning of a project, a supervisor can help a student to understand the significance of what she or he is doing – and frequently reaffirm that significance as the work progresses... It may be only a tiny gap in the great map of knowledge that will be filled by this piece of research. Nonetheless, the student contributes to the enterprise in which all researchers are engaged – the advancement of human understanding. To give students a sense of the nobility and excitement of this role is to bestow a gift of considerable value and utility." Treat students as your colleagues in intellectual adventure – keep them excited about their work by engaging them in debates, sympathizing with their difficulties, and helping them find opportunities to share their enthusiasm for their work.
  7. Help if academic and personal crises crop up: Get to know your students as individuals and how their personal lives interact with their academics. Present yourself as a sympathetic ear and be flexible in your requirements in times of personal stress. Be aware of services available at the university that can help students through a crisis, from counseling to financial aid.
  8. Take an active interest in students’ future careers: Discuss your students’ career aspirations and goals. Help them understand the labour market and how to prepare to enter it, and share your professional connections in the field. Assist students in preparing papers, recommend appropriate conferences, and locate suitable journals for their work.
  9. Carefully monitor the final presentation of the research. Remember: “For most people, completing a research degree is one of their biggest accomplishments in life, and their emotional investment causes stresses and strains. Moments of doubt can start to appear in the final stages. Even though the vast bulk of the work has been done and (in the supervisor’s opinion) little additional work may be necessary, some students nevertheless stall. The supervisor must be a calming and reassuring influence, while at the same time playing the devil’s advocate and putting the work through a comprehensive quality-assurance audit.”

Read more in our Teaching Tips: Best Practices in Graduate Supervision [pdf]

Work Cited

James, R. & Baldwin, G. (1999). Eleven Practices of Effective Postgraduate Supervisors. Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne.

Skarakis-Doyle, E., & McIntyre, G. (2008). Western Guide to Graduate Supervision. Teaching Support Centre, Western University.

Graduate Student Association Council at the University of Pennsylvania. (2011). Graduate Supervision Guidelines.

Sample Agreement Between Students and Supervisors. Simon Fraser University (SFU).


The Yeates School of Graduate Studies (YSGS) has developed guidelines for graduate supervision at Ryerson University. These guidelines serve to complement to official Ryerson policies, and were modeled on the policies and guidelines in place at other Ontario universities.

The principle underlying the entire set of guidelines is "one of mutual respect for students, faculty, and staff in a university environment governed by traditional standards of research and academic integrity, without prejudice or discrimination."

Read the full set of YSGS policies and procedures

The most important of these policies for faculty members are the policies on graduate supervision and course management:


Membership and Awards

Any faculty member who is working with graduate students is required to become a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies. Membership signifies commitment to scholarship, research and creative activity (SRC), and graduate studies. Such commitment enhances the graduate experience for students.

See the Yeates website for more information on becoming a member of YSGS

Faculty might also be interested to know that members of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies are eligible for the annual YSGS Outstanding Contribution to Graduate Education Awards.

Learn more about YSGS Graduate Education Awards.

Academic Support for Students

A message from Student Learning Support:

Student Learning Support – or SLS – offers a range of support programming designed to help Ryerson students develop the skills necessary for academic success and participate fully in their academic programs. All of our programs are free, and open to undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students at Ryerson. We offer individual help, group sessions and workshops, academic accommodation letters, assistive technology, English language practice, math tutoring, writing and dissertation assistance, make-up test bookings, and more.

In addition to student programming, we are committed to providing faculty with resources and expertise to support and enhance learning in their courses and across the curricula. We offer customized in-class presentations for academic-skill building and online writing modules. We recommend that you include information about our services on your course syllabus, or on your D2L course shell. Please visit our Faculty Resources web page to get short, student-friendly text that you can insert into your course syllabus.

Interactive Learning Modules

Learning Modules are short, interactive sessions that can you can link to from your course's D2L site. The modules take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete, and serve as an introduction to the skill or competency on which they focus. You can encourage or require these modules as part of your course requirements.


Customized Support

In addition to the core services offered we recognize that academic skill-building is most effective when it is shaped to respond to the needs and parameters of a specific learning context. We can work with you to create a learning support presence in your class that responds to your needs and concerns.

To inquire about undertaking a special project for your class, please submit a request form on the Student Support website.

More Questions

Contact Student Learning Support for more information about academic support for Ryerson students and faculty resources.

Student Learning Support
341 Yonge Street, 4th floor, Student Learning Centre Toronto, Ontario, M5B 1S1
Telephone: (416) 598-5978

Teaching Information Literacy

"Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning."

The Ryerson University Librarians have worked hard to promote information literacy, and to help students avoid the traps that can often befall those who don't have the skills needed to successfully navigate a world that is densely packed with information. The instructional services division of the Library offers drop-in workshops on research and citation. Ryerson's subject librarians have also produced over forty research guides on topics relevant to the Ryerson community.

The Association of College and Research Libraries has defined information literacy within the context of higher education with the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. The Framework is based on "a cluster of interconnected core concepts, with flexible options for implementation."

The six frames and the knowledge practices that define what learners will be able to do if they successfully understand each frame are excerpted below:

  1. Authority Is Constructed and Contextual: Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required. Learners who are developing their information literate abilities:
    • define different types of authority, such as subject expertise (e.g., scholarship), societal position (e.g., public office or title), or special experience (e.g., participating in a historic event);
    • use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources, understanding the elements that might temper this credibility;
    • understand that many disciplines have acknowledged authorities in the sense of well-known scholars and publications that are widely considered “standard,” and yet, even in those situations, some scholars would challenge the authority of those sources;
    • recognize that authoritative content may be packaged formally or informally and may include sources of all media types;
    • acknowledge they are developing their own authoritative voices in a particular area and recognize the responsibilities this entails, including seeking accuracy and reliability, respecting intellectual property, and participating in communities of practice;
    • understand the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem where authorities actively connect with one another and sources develop over time.
  2. Information Creation as a Process: Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences. Learners who are developing their information literate abilities:
    • are inclined to seek out characteristics of information products that indicate the underlying creation process;
    • value the process of matching an information need with an appropriate product;
    • accept that the creation of information may begin initially through communicating in a range of formats or modes;
    • accept the ambiguity surrounding the potential value of information creation expressed in emerging formats or modes;
    • resist the tendency to equate format with the underlying creation process;
    • understand that different methods of information dissemination with different purposes are available for their use.
  3. Information Has Value: Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination. Learners who are developing their information literate abilities:
    • give credit to the original ideas of others through proper attribution and citation;
    • understand that intellectual property is a legal and social construct that varies by culture;
    • articulate the purpose and distinguishing characteristics of copyright, fair use, open access, and the public domain;
    • understand how and why some individuals or groups of individuals may be underrepresented or systematically marginalized within the systems that produce and disseminate information;
    • recognize issues of access or lack of access to information sources;
    • decide where and how their information is published;
    • understand how the commodification of their personal information and online interactions affects the information they receive and the information they produce or disseminate online;
    • make informed choices regarding their online actions in full awareness of issues related to privacy and the commodification of personal information.
  4. Research as Inquiry: Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field. Learners who are developing their information literate abilities:
    • formulate questions for research based on information gaps or on reexamination of existing, possibly conflicting, information;
    • determine an appropriate scope of investigation;
    • deal with complex research by breaking complex questions into simple ones, limiting the scope of investigations;
    • use various research methods, based on need, circumstance, and type of inquiry;
    • monitor gathered information and assess for gaps or weaknesses;
    • organize information in meaningful ways;
    • synthesize ideas gathered from multiple sources;
    • draw reasonable conclusions based on the analysis and interpretation of information.
  5. Scholarship as Conversation: Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations. Learners who are developing their information literate abilities:
    • cite the contributing work of others in their own information production;
    • contribute to scholarly conversation at an appropriate level, such as local online community, guided discussion, undergraduate research journal, conference presentation/poster session;
    • identify barriers to entering scholarly conversation via various venues;
    • critically evaluate contributions made by others in participatory information environments;
    • identify the contribution that particular articles, books, and other scholarly pieces make to disciplinary knowledge;
    • summarize the changes in scholarly perspective over time on a particular topic within a specific discipline;
    • recognize that a given scholarly work may not represent the only or even the majority perspective on the issue.
  6. Searching as Strategic Exploration: Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops. Learners who are developing their information literate abilities:
    • determine the initial scope of the task required to meet their information needs;
    • identify interested parties, such as scholars, organizations, governments, and industries, who might produce information about a topic and then determine how to access that information;
    • utilize divergent (e.g., brainstorming) and convergent (e.g., selecting the best source) thinking when searching;
    • match information needs and search strategies to appropriate search tools;
    • design and refine needs and search strategies as necessary, based on search results;
    • understand how information systems (i.e., collections of recorded information) are organized in order to access relevant information;
    • use different types of searching language (e.g., controlled vocabulary, keywords, natural language) appropriately;
    • manage searching processes and results effectively.

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If you would like to make comments or suggestions, recommend useful resources, or share your practice, please email Michelle Schwartz, Instructional Design and Research Strategist, at

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