This is a prescriptive handout: for more on protocols in general, consult the webpage at

College classes resemble high school classes, but there are differences. The basic difference is that students have a greater responsibility for themselves. However, in order for classes to function, students and teachers have to ... behave.

Certain problems are addressed in the academic regulations: no cheating, no violating state or federal law, etc. But there are some other things as well.

In the classroom, the teacher is supposed to provide an opportunity for students to learn. Usually, this means that it is up to the teacher to design the class: for good or ill, the teacher is supposed to develop an effective method for teaching the course. A student is probably best off trying to learn within the course designed by the teacher. (Of course, any intelligent course design has opportunities for students to get help, and students are strongly advised to take advantage of these opportunities.) Both teacher and student are supposed to make an effort: the teacher is to provide an opportunity to learn, and the student is to make the most of the opportunity. Remember that the teacher's priority is not to have students get high grades, it is to teach students the subject of the course.

Much of the interaction between teacher & student is in the classroom, and since people are supposed to be able to deal with complex material in the class, it is important that the class maintain a level of civility and decorum.

  • Students should come to class. Teachers design their course for students who do come, and it is not entirely fair to expect teachers to cover for students who skip class. Of course, emergencies come up, and teachers expect this, but skipping class is not a good habit.
  • Similarly, do not come to class late: as an additional problem, coming in late disrupts the class.
  • In general, the teacher has the floor: talking in class is disruptive and shows disrespect (as, to a lesser degree, does reading newspapers, etc.). As for cell phones ... .
  • In smaller classes, some professors permit questions and even discussions. These should be civil, and both teachers and students should show respect for each other.
In general, one is best advised to imagine onesself as the other person, and try to figure out how that other person feels, or would act.

Do not be afraid to approach a teacher about a problem. Teachers prefer to know about scheduling difficulties in advance. Teachers prefer to know about problems students have with the material (and to know that the students are trying to do something about the problem). Teachers have been teaching for years, and they've seen it all (well, almost all), and they can tell from homework and tests if a student is having difficulties; and teachers appreciate students who make a visible effort to succeed. Also, helping students is part of the teacher's job.

Escape links

The in-depth behavior page

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