Skip to content

Teaching Tip: Setting and Maintaining Classroom Expectations

Make a Great First Impression!

You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and the first day of class is no exception. Four key elements are necessary for successful start:

  1. Establishing rapport with students
  2. Being the motivational force
  3. Hooking students into the course content
  4. Providing direction and expectations for the course

Do something the very first day to ‘hook’ your class into the course topic. Do it before you even present the syllabus—start the class with an experiential exercise that gets students conversing with each other. Make it intriguing; for example, introduce a puzzle or conundrum for students to solve that involves course content or give a fascinating demonstration with a follow-up discussion. And make it interactive; for example, have your students work in small groups of 3 or 4 and ask a few groups to report on what they discovered. Most importantly, leave them wanting more!

(originally posted on Aug. 19, 2015)

Consistently Configure Classroom with Student Help

Are you managing a new classroom configuration this year? Are you dealing with movable furniture? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, enlist your students to help you make the most of your classroom space!

If you want the room to be configured in a particular way, perhaps differently than the class before yours had configured it, share your expectations with your students by using a diagram (see samples above) and enlist their help in achieving the correct configuration. Ask students to appropriately arrange the classroom as soon as they arrive to avoid the ‘random facing front’ phenomenon.

We have more ‘flat and flexible’ rooms than ever before—those in the Food Sciences buildings, in Ayres Hall, the Library, in HSS, in Tickle, and in others. Use the space to your and your students’ advantage by consciously configuring the set up!

(originally posted on Sept. 23, 2015)

Reinforce Motivation by Setting High Expectations from Day 1

It’s a new semester and a new year; the university community has re-assembled after a long holiday break and it’s tempting to start off the semester slowly, easing into the hard work ahead. Don’t be tempted! Many students will only aim as high as we set the bar, so it is important to set the bar high and start the challenges early. Begin the first day with a challenging and meaningful assignment that sets the tone for the remainder of the semester and that gets your students thinking within the discipline. Delaying the challenges and high expectations only reinforces common habits of postponement and procrastination that hinder student success. An early challenge will jump-start your students, and the feedback you provide will clear up any questions about your expectations.

(originally posted on Aug. 27, 2014 and Jan. 6, 2015)


The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.