Course Policies

Table of Contents

  1. Overview: Course policies and accessibility
  2. Classroom policies and norms

Overview: Course policies and accessibility

  • Eliminate rules: Course rules represent a significant barrier to inclusion in the classroom, as well as sources of academia-related anxiety that are already heightened in marginalized students. It is likely that students will have difficulty with rules in ways you may not anticipate. Aim to eliminate rules wherever possible.
  • Remove yourself from “classroom management”: Rules, especially punitive rules, exacerbate the power dynamic between instructor and student in ways that are not beneficial. Instead of punitive rules, lean towards class norms — perhaps negotiated together with students – and positive incentives.
  • Do not police behavior: Never call-out students or shame them for their behavior. Change your perspective on behaviors such as sleeping, eating, and talking in class that you may find rude and consider why students might be doing them. Recognize the amount of time students spend in class each day. If a student’s behavior is negatively affecting the class learning environment, discuss it with them privately in a non-confrontational manner.
  • Academic norms and etiquette are often derived from a highly classed culture of “professionalism” that is structurally ableist and classist.
  • Avoid relying on student exceptions: Requiring students to seek exceptions to a rule places the burden on students to approach you, and forces them to disclose personal information possibly against their will.
  • Know your students’ rights, which may differ depending on your institution.

Classroom policies and norms

  • Lateness and absence: Barriers to attending class are disproportionately high for marginalized students, particularly students with disabilities and poor students. Avoid penalizing students for lateness and absence. Instead, find positive incentives for student attendance. Explain to students how you expect attendance will affect their ability to achieve course goals and succeed in assessments.
  • Laptop / phone policy: Although there is evidence that laptop bans reduce distractions in the classroom, laptops and other technology provide important accessibility tools to many students. Mandatory bans place a burden of disclosure on students who must seek exceptions.
  • Breaks and pauses: Allow students to take breaks whenever they need them. Structure longer built-in breaks into your lesson plans. These can serve multiple purposes, such as for questions.