Classroom Expectations

What do your professors expect of you?

Every faculty member has certain expectations of students. While not universally held, there are certain common elements of student behavior that most professors will expect of their students.

Use your course syllabi!

The syllabus is the guide/outline/plan for the course. It tells you what your professor believes to be important and the sequence that they believes will help you learn the material most successfully. Professors expect you to read the syllabus and refer to it throughout the semester. Review your syllabus and look for the following key things:

Course Logistics

  • When does the class meet?
  • Are there differences between meeting sessions, such as time, location, lab, lecture, independent work, etc.?
  • What books do I need?
  • What is the inclement weather and attendance policy for the class?

Learning Expectations

  • What is expected of me in the class?
  • What out of class activities are required, such as Supplemental Instruction, field trips, volunteer hours, etc.?
  • How will I receive my assignments?
  • How do I submit assignments?
  • How is my grade determined?
  • What are the policies on late or make-up work?
  • What are the learning outcomes/goals/objectives for the course?


  • Where is my instructor's office?
  • When are my instructor's office hours?
  • How does my instructor want to be contacted? (Phone, email, after class, office hours, appointment only, etc.)

Important Dates

Remember to transfer these important dates to your planner so you can be prepared ahead of time and avoid last minute cramming.

  • When are the exams?
  • What are the due dates for papers or projects?
  • When do I need to complete readings and homework?

Get the most out of every class!

Attend, attend, attend.

You cannot expect to do well in a class if you don’t attend the class. All of the excuses (it’s too early, I was up late, I have a head ache, I wanted to go to the game, etc.) are just that, excuses. Non-attendance tells your professor you aren’t concerned enough about doing well in their class to attend. So, when the end of the semester is looming and you go in to ask for help with what appears to be just another excuse for your poor performance, your professor is not likely to be too sympathetic.

Here are some guidelines for class attendance.

Get to class early.

You’ll need time to select a seat and get your book, paper and pens ready to take notes. Arriving late is disruptive to the class and annoys classmates and professors. Once you’re ready, review your notes from the last lecture or your reading assignment until the professor begins.

Slipping into class late.

Life happens. Lattes spill. If you must arrive late to class, slip into the back of the room and take your seat as quickly and quietly as possible. Your goal is to avoid disrupting the class or, worse yet, have your professor stop the lecture until you are seated.

Life happens to your professors, too.

If your professor is late, courtesy demands you wait at least fifteen minutes for them to arrive. You may be tempted to cut and run, but professors notice and remember those students who waited.

Missed a class?

Hopefully you won’t miss class, but if you do, what should happen? First, email your professor before class if possible and let them know you will be missing class. Be sure that you're aware of your professor's attendance policy. If your absence is excused, make every effort to complete your make-up assignments.

Contact a classmate and find out what you missed.

If you missed class and go to see your professor, never ask your professor if you missed something important. From their perspective, if it was important enough for them to be there in order to teach a certain lesson it was important. Instead, ask what material was discussed and what can you do to make up any missed work.

Be an active participant.

It's not enough to just be physically present in class - you need to be mentally present, too! Here are some tips for active learning in the classroom:

Be attentive.

Remain on task – listen actively and take notes. Make eye contact with your professor.

Sit in the front “T Zone”. (Mentally draw a “T” at the front of the classroom which stretches from one side of the classroom to the other with the leg of the “T” extending toward the back of the classroom. Generally, this includes the front 2‐3 rows and 3‐4 rows from the middle front of the room to the middle back of the room.)

Be ready to learn. Sitting in college desks or chairs is tiresome, but you are paying a lot of money for the opportunity to do so. Think of those baseball players in the outfield waiting for the pitch and swing. They are tuned in, focused, ready to catch whatever comes their way. Take that attitude into the classroom and you’re off to a great start.

Come to class having read any reading assignments and completed any other pre-class preparation assigned by your professor. This will allow you to participate intelligently in class.

What to avoid:

  • Sleeping in class.
  • Using electronic devices - cell phone, laptop for use other than taking notes, etc.
  • Working on assignments for other classes.
  • Eating and drinking in class.
  • Any behavior that distracts other students.

Use office hours wisely!

Office hours are a great time to speak with your professors. Be respectful of our professor’s time.

If you have questions about the class, be sure to check your syllabus and notes first. It’s embarrassing to ask a question and have your professor point out that the question has already been answered.

Don’t monopolize your professor’s office hours. While professors are glad to help you, most don’t want to see you every Tuesday afternoon. It’s a fine line between dropping by during office hours and saying “Hi, I enjoyed the class this Monday” so the professor gets to know your face and recognizes your genuine interest in the class and being a nuisance. Tread carefully and be attuned to body language. When someone starts checking a watch, reading a computer screen, shuffling papers, it’s time to go.

If you make an appointment with a professor, keep it.

Submit only your original work!

Your professor expects the papers and other work you turn in to be written or completed by you. To avoid plagiarism and its potential consequences (failure of class, suspension, expulsion, etc.), document any ideas or materials that you use from a website, a printed source or other media (movie, television, music, etc.) using the appropriate documentation format. Your professor will let you know which citation style is required for your assignments.