In Brief

Uni staff told capital letters could frighten anxious students

Leeds journalism lecturers also urged to avoid negative language and using the word ‘don’t’

Lecturers at a Leeds university have been urged to stop using capital letters in their classwork instructions to avoid upsetting anxious students.

Staff in the journalism department of Leeds Trinity received the unusual request in a memo warning that a lack of clarity when explaining assignments could generate stress and anxiety for students.

However, the memo warned that writing in uppercase letters – a common method for drawing attention to key points – could make the task seem intimidating and “frighten the students into failure”, the Daily Mirror reports.

The memo also suggested other ways that lecturers could reassure students, such as avoiding negative language in their feedback and adopting a friendly tone, Metro reports.

In particular, staff are encouraged not to use the word “don’t” where possible, while overusing the word “do” is also discouraged.

An anonymous staff member told the Daily Express that staff baulked at being asked to treat intelligent students like “children”.

“We are not doing our students any favours with this kind of nonsense,” they told the newspaper.

However, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Margaret A. House, said that press coverage had been overblown and that the guidance in the memo was drawn from “national best practice teaching guidelines”.

“The memo cited in the press is guidance from a course leader to academic staff, sharing best practice from the latest teaching research to inform their teaching,” she told the Daily Mirror.

As for the supposed ban on uppercase letters, she said the recommendation was “about good communication and consistent style” rather than pandering. “It is best practice not to write in all capital letters regardless of the sector,” she said.

Nonetheless, this is the latest in a series of headline-grabbing stories from UK campuses which has prompted critics to claim students are being babied rather than challenged in academic life.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the University of Manchester’s student union had voted to recommend using jazz hands rather than clapping to avoid overwhelming students with anxiety or sensory issues.

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