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The guidelines outlined here will help you establish a mutually respectful relationship with your students, including clear expectations and boundaries. While some instructors imagine that vague expectations foster a relaxed environment that students enjoy, in reality such ambiguity can bring about anxiety, unnecessary disruption to teaching, and potential conflict. Students appreciate clarity, honesty, consistency, and fairness. Conducting your classroom in this way also models the professionalism they need to learn in their future careers.


Come to each class fully prepared.

You are expected to do the lecture/demo indicated on the syllabus, starting with the first session. Practice your demos in advance to ensure they are professional, well-timed, and go smoothly. Make sure you have all materials needed, slides ready, necessary technology checked, etc., before each session begins. Remember that you are modeling professional behavior for your students and setting expectations as much by what you do as what you say.

Learn more: Preparing for Class

Anticipate challenges and clarify policies

As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. Many instructors reach week 10 of the semester overwhelmed with perpetually late or disruptive students affecting their class and wish they had made policies and expectations clearer at the beginning.

Learn more: Addressing Classroom Challenges Proactively  |  Classroom Teaching Challenges

Start every session on time; don’t let your class out early.

Arrive 10-15 minutes before class starts to greet students and prepare. Holding up the start of class to accommodate latecomers passively endorses their behavior, so don't wait until everyone is present to begin. We also ask for your cooperation in ensuring that classes are not let out early, even on first and last days of the semester; cutting class short violates our contract with the students and may be grounds for a student grievance. Please bring sufficient material and activities, and have students start their homework in class when possible so you can ensure they are on the right track.

Learn more: Beginning and Ending On Time  |  Managing the First and Last Five Minutes of Class

Take attendance at the beginning of each class session. Update attendance to include late students, as needed throughout the class.

When students know their names will be called at the beginning of class, they're more likely to be there for it. The university relies on having accurate, up-to-date attendance information as it can impact a student’s financial aid, visa status, and outreach by AAU support services. Submit the attendance immediately after your class through the LMS (online Learning Management System). If a student arrives after you have submitted attendance, you can edit the attendance within 24 hours of finishing your class.

Learn more: Taking Attendance at the Start of Class

Follow the Course Outline and Syllabus

Before you begin teaching, your department will provide you with the syllabus and course outline for your class. It's crucial that you familiarize yourself with them, because these documents represent a legal contract between the school and the students, and instructors are required to follow them. In particular, the learning outcomes listed in the syllabus define how that class will contribute to achieving their major and their career. Students choose classes based on these learning outcomes – and they sometimes file grievances if their instructor does not follow the syllabus and course outline. 

If an updated version of the syllabus or the course outline is in use but has not been posted to the LMS, you should provide students with a printed and electronic version of the document, along with explicit instructions not to follow the information in the LMS. It’s a good idea to also have students sign an acknowledgement that they have been advised of this change and agreed to it.

Learn more: Following the Course Outline and Syllabus

Preview the content and objectives of the class session.

Previewing the module content focuses both students and the teacher on the subject and activities for the day. It also provides a kind of road map for the session that gives students a sense of how it fits into the arc of the course. And it encourages them to begin thinking about the day's subject. Providing this information in written form – on the board, on a slide, or in a handout – encourages students to take notes and begins to prioritize the information for them.

Learn more: Previewing Today's Class Session

Be attentive and responsive to students.

Making and sustaining eye contact, not just scanning the room, conveys your connection and interest in students as members of your classroom community. Move around the room during lecture when possible, and call on individual students from time to time. Be an interested presence in the classroom so that there are few opportunities for students to enter a 20-minute texting digression. Respond to their participation or lack thereof, and periodically check in with each student to see how they're doing and if they need additional support from you, from workshops, or from ARC or Accessibility Resources.

Demonstrate leadership, maintaining a productive, disciplined class.

Leadership begins with setting clear, specific guidelines and expectations. It's maintained by consistency in adhering to these expectations yourself and in holding students accountable for them. If you tell students you will not accept late homework without prior notification, do not accept late homework unless the student has contacted you in advance. Whatever interferes with productivity in the classroom, it is the instructor's responsibility to manage it, and there are resources available (Faculty Evaluation & Coaching, ARC, Accessibility Resources) should you need assistance or guidance.

Treat all students with respect, regardless of culture, gender, age, etc.

The Academy’s student population comprises a wide range of educational, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. While it may be difficult to entirely avoid stereotypes, it’s a good practice to step back whenever we assume we know what a student is thinking or doing. If you have concerns of any kind about a student, check in with them one-on-one to learn more; show authentic interest and inquire without probing. Offer support, encouragement, and direction when you can. Recognize that there is as much going on in your students’ lives outside the classroom as there is going on in yours, and they will appreciate knowing that you understand this. 

Learn more: Modeling Respect and Civility in the Classroom

Help students feel safe in your classroom.

Students need to feel safe in order to learn. Safe to make mistakes. Safe to ask questions. Safe to test out new ideas. Safe to be oneself. A student’s sense of self is an amalgam of political, social, ethnic, sexual, gender, religious, and class identities. If any one of these identities is threatened, students may feel alienated, retreat into silence and shut down their learning process. Or worse, they may lash out in self-defense against you or other students.

Learn more: Safe to Learn = Safe to Be Oneself

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