Classroom Etiquette

Classroom Etiquette

Math & Science Solutions

Classroom Etiquette
By Dennis Congos, University of Central Florida

College students are expected to adhere to certain standards of classroom etiquette. Classroom etiquette refers to the manner in which students should act when class is in session, and we’d like to discuss conventions related to being respectful in class, participating fully, and asking before using technology.

Be Respectful

Being respectful is important in every class meeting and outside of class as well, and the behaviors described below are ways to demonstrate the respect you have for your professor and your fellow learners in the classroom.

Be on time and stay the entire class.

Simply put, it’s disrespectful and disruptive to be late. When students come to class late, it can be distracting to the professor as well as other students. There might be an instance or two that you are late which should be explained to the professor when or if it happens, ideally before the class. If you take the initiative to explain why you were late, the professor will most likely appreciate the explanation (habitual lateness isn’t acceptable, though), but make sure to wait until class is over to talk to the professor. However, if lateness becomes a habit, the professor may decide to talk to you about it or may count you absent and have you withdrawn from the class.

Also, if you happen to arrive late, it is best to take the first open seat available rather than a seat clear across the classroom.

Leaving early is very similar to coming to class late. As it can be distracting to come into class late, it is also very distracting to get up and leave before the class is over. However, if there is a special circumstance, let the professor know before class. Again, leaving early should be a rare occurrence.

Address the professor correctly.

It is important to be familiar with the professor’s name so that you can ask a question or address him/her when needed. If a professor has a PhD or some form of a doctorate, you will most likely refer to him/her as Dr. or “Professor” along with his/her last name. If the instructor does not have a doctorate, you can generally use Mr. or Ms. along with the instructor’s last name, of course. Often, professors will introduce themselves the first day of class—so pay attention to the introduction.

Turn off your cell phone.

It is best to turn off your phone during class to avoid disrupting the lecture. If you can’t turn it off, it should be set on silent/vibrate so that it does not make any sound during the class which would disrupt the entire class. Also, you should NEVER answer a phone call during class. In rare circumstances where you may need to take an important call, such as in an emergency situation, you should ask the instructor if you may leave your phone on during class.

Don’t pack up before class ends.

In many cases, students start to pack up their books, pens, etc. before class has actually ended. Beginning to pack up early can be very distracting and disrespectful to the professor and students who are trying to listen to the end of the lecture. Out of respect, you should wait until the professor has ended his/her lecture. Many times, the professor will provide critical information at the end of the lecture, e.g., when the next exam will be.

Participate Fully

By participating fully in class, you will get the most out of class, and you will be more likely to retain the information.

Below are several different ways in which you can participate fully during your classes.

    • Prepare and read ahead of time. It is important to stay up to date on the information you will be covering during each particular class period.

      Check your syllabus for each of your classes and make note of what reading assignments you should complete before class. Most often, you want to read chapters that you’re going to cover in class before the class meeting that the chapters are covered in.

      All homework assignments/papers should be done before the particular class period they are due unless otherwise directed by your instructor.

    • Ask questions. Asking questions is a key part of learning in any class. Early in the semester, you can ask the professor if he or she prefers you to ask questions during class, after class, or during office hours. When you may be confused or may have missed something the professor said, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification either during/after class or during office hours. Professors enjoy interaction with the students through questioning, but make sure to keep questions on the subject at hand. If your professor doesn’t want questions asked until after the lecture, write it down so you don’t forget it and ask the question once he/she allows questions.
    • Raise your hand. During class, if you plan to ask a question or make a comment, raise your hand and let the professor address you rather than interrupting the lecture. Typically, if the professor sees your hand raised, he/she will call on you and allow you to ask your question.
    • Stay on task. Students can definitely converse before the professor gets into class or before the class actually begins. However, once the professor begins class, all side conversations should end. Throughout class, if you fail to hear something the professor says, you can ask the professor questions by raising your hand, but do not get into a conversation with a nearby classmate which can be very distracting and disrespectful towards the professor and your classmates.
    • Ask Before Using Technology. Technology is a common thing in today’s society, but certain kinds of technology may not be acceptable in the classroom as it may disrupt the lecture. You may need to ask your instructor about items like cell phones, laptops, and recording devices, but we’ve also provided some general advice below.
    • Cell phones. Again, it is best to turn off your phone during class to avoid disrupting the lecture. If you can’t turn it off, it should be set on silent/vibrate so that it does not make any sound during the class which would disrupt the class.
    • Laptops/tablets. First and foremost, you should check the syllabus or ask the professor if he/she allows the use of a laptop for note taking during class. More and more students do use laptops/tablets for note taking in class these days, but always ask if it is allowed. And if you do decide to use a laptop/tablet, you should avoid surfing the web or playing games, which can be distracting to students around you and yourself.
    • Recording devices. Professor’s policies about using a device to record a lecture may vary. Therefore, ask the professor in advance if he or she allows the use of a recording device for lectures. A tape recorder can be beneficial if you are having trouble keeping up with the speed the professor is moving or if you are in the back of the classroom and have trouble hearing the professor. However, a tape recorder can also be a bad tool if you intend to use it to catch up on a lecture at a later time. The recorder should not be what you rely on for hearing the lecture. Taking notes is critical during lectures to completely comprehend lectures and to stay engaged.

This list of etiquette tips will provide you with a general idea of what will be expected of you in the college classroom, but we also encourage you to ask your professors about issues that come up during the semester. If you’re not sure what’s acceptable in the classroom, simply ask the professor what his/her preference is.