Students' expectations

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As a lecturer, I've always started my first day of class by discussing the syllabus and orienting students to classroom etiquette and what I expect from them for the duration of the course.  

Recently, I discovered that as lecturers we always tell students what we expect from them, but never what they should expect from us as a teacher. I was caught off guard when the question was posed by a student. I'm not sure if the response I gave was satisfactory.

If students were to ask you on the first day of class what they should expect from you as a teacher, what would you say to them?


Another teacher:
I always start out the semester by telling students that the class is a contract between us. I lay out my expectations for them (as you do) and let them know that they can expect the following of me:

I will be prepared and on-time for class sessions. (Note: students tend to take this as a given, but not follow through themselves. I like to point out that it goes both ways).

I will answer their course-related questions to the best of my abilities and seek external sources as necessary.

I will return their graded assignments within a set period of time (I teach once/week classes, so I strive to return assignments the next week. It may take two weeks if life is really crazy, but I'll let them know in advance).

I will treat them all with respect.

I will answer my e-mail in a timely manner (my personal response time is 24 hours Monday - Friday, except when I'm out of town. I let them know I should not be expected to respond over the weekend.)

I will help them as best I can as long as they are willing to meet me half-way and do their best to help themselves.

I will identify and recommend external campus resources they might find helpful on an as-needed basis (such as the writing center, office of disabilities, etc.).

I will listen to their questions/concerns/feedback about the course structure, readings, and assignments and respond as best I can.

I will strive to create a classroom climate in which all students may comfortably learn (again, as long as they're holding up their end of the bargain).

I find that laying out mutual expectations is really helpful. I don't change what I do at all. This is how I would teach, regardless of student expectations, but I find that letting them know that this is my half of the contract helps me more effectively push them to uphold their half of the contract. If I'm prepared, they should be prepared, too. If I listen, they should listen. If I'm on time, they should be on time. If I read my e-mail regularly and respond as needed, they should, too.

Do you have a statement of teaching philosophy you give to prospective employers? If so, that is what to tell them. If not, you should have one. Some things they should be able to expect from you are as follows:

Clear and fair assessment, a demanding yet supportive atmosphere for learning, constructive rather than derogatory criticism, organized lectures, helpful materials, clear expectations on what to expect from an exam/paper/homework, respect for student opinions, a willingness to discuss student concerns both academic and class-related, availabilty for class-related meetings and conferences, etc. -- whatever you think is right.

If you go on the Internet and do a search for your discipline (e.g., art, sociology, etc.) and "statment of teaching philosophy" you will come up with other people's statments. This document is not only for employers but for students, too. Looking at other people's can help you make your own.

There is also a good Web site that helps you make up a teaching portfolio, including such a statement (see

I think it's a fair question. I often share with students (on the first day and throughout the semester) my philosophy of teaching. I want students to become self-motivated, active learners, so that's why the assignments that I give focus on application of the material they learned.

I believe that my role as teacher is to help students focus on what's important, and to facilitate on-going learning, to help students become better consumers of the literature in the field, to help them to critically evaluate what's out there. In order to do that I'll teach, ask questions, teach again. If they want to ask me questions I'll welcome them, and we can figure out the "answers" together. I tell them that I try to be available to them, even if I'm in the lab or writing papers, which is where most of my time is spent. I respond to e-mail daily; they can even call me at home (yes, I put my home number on the syllabus -- they have never abused it).

I think my job is to create an environment where it's ok to be "wrong" where they won't be embarrassed, and in which they can challenge each other and me in a way that moves us forward.

I recently drafted my statement of teaching philosophy.  Thanks for the suggestions. I never thought of sharing that with students though. I will start doing so. Thanks.


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