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I’m passing along some ideas from Brian Matzke, a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Making social rules and expectations explicit is a big part of contemporary classroom management, and this document is a good starting point for other instructors developing their own syllabi or cataloguing their own expectations. This version has been very lightly edited; you can see the original (with comic strip!) here.

Etiquette Guidelines for Students Interacting with Instructors

Success in any college course is determined by your performance on the graded material—the exams, the papers, the other assignments—but it is also determined by the relationship that you cultivate with your instructor. This might not seem intuitive, but making a good impression on your instructor and cultivating a positive relationship with them can lead to many tangible benefits. It can mean that the instructor will be more likely to excuse an absence or provide you with an extension on an assignment. It can make them more inclined to bump up a borderline final grade. It can turn them into a source for a letter of recommendation. And it can determine how harsh or lenient they are when they evaluate the more subjective components of your grade, like essays or participation. Cultivating a positive relationship with an instructor requires following certain etiquette rules. Some of these may seem obvious, but they are all important:


  • DO read the syllabus closely and consult it for answers to questions about course policies.
  • DON’T ask your instructor questions about the course that are answered on the syllabus.
  • DO ask for clarification about course policies or assignments as soon as possible.
  • DON’T wait until right before the due date to ask questions about the assignment.

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