Communicating Course Expectations
by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer
The first weeks of a course are a critical time for establishing expectations. Teachers in K-12 education have long understood the value of classroom management; but in higher education, the topic is sometimes overlooked. Whether your teaching style is structured or laid-back, almost all students benefit from receiving clear expectations from their instructor. The following questions might be useful to consider when you communicate expectations at the beginning of a term:
Preparing for Class
- How should students prepare for each class session?
- When should students skim resources or read deeply?
- How will students know they are prepared for assessments and/or meeting learning objectives?
Participation in Class
- What does active, engaged participation look like in this class?
- What are the consequences of missing class, arriving late, or leaving early?
- Is class participation explicitly graded? Are in-class activities graded? If so, how?
- What level of formality is expected for oral and written communications?
- What are expectations for discussing sensitive or personal topics?
- What is your preferred method for communication outside of class? If students contact you, when should they expect a reply?
- When is collaboration with peers appropriate and inappropriate?
- When and how should students cite course readings or other materials?
- What are consequences for violations of academic integrity?
Course expectations should be communicated both in writing and in class. If some expectations are especially critical, consider having students sign a pledge or classroom contract. Although the syllabus is a common place to post policies, you can also utilize your Sakai site for sharing such information. For instance, a page could be created in Sakai to post FAQs or tips for success. Sakai announcements are another way to remind students of key expectations.
There are undoubtedly other expectations instructors’ discuss with students to encourage a productive and efficient learning environment. In the comments section below, post those topics or strategies you communicate to students early or often to ensure they understand course expectations.