Day 1: Discuss Course Expectations

It is tempting to read course expectations right from the syllabus and move on with the course. Have you ever wondered what students expect from you? Have you ever had a student accuse you of not being accessible? You may have your office hours in your syllabus and may mention that you will proofread drafts, but these bits of information are often offered in passing or buried within a syllabus. Students may not remember the information, because it was not impactful or personal. Why not have a conversation about expectations?

In just 15 minutes, you can learn what students need from you and clarify what you can do for them. Here’s how to get the conversation started.

Step 1: On day one welcome students to the class. Explain that everyone enters relationships with expectations and you would like to learn their expectations for you. If students seem shy, ask the following probing questions:

  • What have great instructors done differently?
  • How can I support your success?
  • Consider what poor instructors have done and what they could have done to support your success?

If these probing questions do not work, break students into groups of 2-4 and ask them to list at least 3 expectations for you.

Step 2: Record and acknowledge their expectations. Let students know what you can do and what you are unable to do. It is better to have this conversation in the beginning of your new relationship, rather than at the end. Some students may expect you to be available only during your office hours and others may expect you to be available 9 am to 5 pm every day of the week. These expectations may be set regardless of what the syllabus dictates. Being crystal clear about these expectations right away will help avoid issues later.

Step 3: Communicate your expectations. This is where you take the stage. Tell students what you expect of them. Include information about contact when they cannot be in class, making up assignment, and attendance. Stress the need for accountability. Clarify any areas of confusion before launching into the rest of the first day activities.

Most students want to be a part of their learning process. They want to feel like they are an active player in their education. This conversation will encourage this and help you get to know your students.

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