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Strategies to Implement and Practices to Avoid: Setting Class Expectations for Your Students

One of the most important ways to determine how your classroom will be managed for the semester is setting clear class expectations. Establishing expectations builds structure, influences student performance and achievement, and creates a positive learning space (Rubie-Davis, 2015). The following list of possible strategies to implement and practices to avoid when setting expectations is not an exhaustive one. However, it does offer some practical strategies for implementation and issues to keep in mind when establishing expectations for your classroom.

Five Strategies to Implement

  • Design expectations that are consistent with the University’s expectationsClass expectations that are aligned with the University’s expectations promote a solidarity in policies and procedures, which are aimed to help students be successful learners and maintain an orderly and productive community. 
    • Examples of consistent expectations: stating course description, setting standards of conduct and consequences, outlining grading system, and establishing class attendance guidelines.
  • State expectations early. Use the first day of class to set the tone, including stating your expectations and being clear on all rules (e.g., participation and attendance).
  • State your own expectations. Expectation is a two-way street! Stating your own expectations lets students know that you are holding yourself accountable, too. Here are some ways to state your own expectations in specific content:
    • Mindset matters: I will provide you with active learning methods to help you improve your knowledge, increase student engagement, and grow your mindset
    • In students’ shoes: I want you to be successful in this course; therefore, I will listen to your viewpoint and be flexible in my class decisions. 
    • Learning resources: I will state assignment expectations frequently and provide examples of satisfactory and unsatisfactory assignments. 
    • All-inclusive: I will provide an inclusive learning space that respects diversity, facilitates participation, and reflects various learning needs for all students. 
  • Set a student-teacher communication plan for expectations. A communication plan provides your students with how, what, and when you will communicate with them. For example:
    • Availability: I will be available to meet face-to-face/virtually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 1:00 – 4:00 pm (EDT). If you would like to schedule a meeting, please call (865-000-0000) or email (
    • Assignments: In this course, all instructions for assignments will be uploaded to Canvas assignments, and updates will in be Canvas announcements.
    • E-mail communication: I will strive to respond to e-mail communication as soon as possible, but please, allow a 12 to 24-hour response time.
  • Create a space for students to develop peer-to-peer classroom expectations. Offer students an opportunity to participate in group activities to help them develop peer-to-peer classroom expectations and take ownership in their learning environment (Erwin, 2004).

Three Practices to Avoid

  • Keep in mind that students may not read all the content of your syllabus. In addition to your syllabus, consider making expectations visible by:
  • Avoid establishing unrealistic or unattainable expectations. Setting unrealistic expectations can be stressful (for you and your students) and set students up for failure like missing deadlines and getting behind with other assignments (Rubie-Davis, 2015). Instead, create high but realistic expectations that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bounded.
  • Avoid setting inconsistent expectations. Being inconsistent disturbs the learning environment and creates ambiguous expectations (Rubie-Davis, 2015). Setting consistent expectations not only provides structure, but fosters an engaging learning space, and promotes a more equitable learning community (Pollnow & Tkatchov, 2017). As you begin to think about your class expectations, be sure to consider how they align with student learning outcomes, assessments, and the University’s expectations.



Erwin, J. (2004). The classroom of choice: Giving students what they need and getting what you want. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  

Pollnow, S., & Tkatchov, O. (2017). Success for every student: A guide to teaching and learning (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. 

Rubie-Davies, C. (2015). Becoming a high expectation teacher: Raising the bar. Routledge.