By Tess DeBlander, Adjunct Faculty in the APTES program.

Creating class expectations based on Bryan University’s policies is a standard for all instructors. I welcomed the challenge and created a SUCCESS Document describing Student Success. “S” was “show up,” “U” was “understand weekly assignments,” etc. This one page document was posted on the Class Wall and by announcement prior to the class. It was also reviewed in the Live Class Session on day one.

But were the students engaged? Were they listening? While a handful were raising their hand and sharing the steps for “Student Success,” I found myself saying, “Bueller… Bueller…?” Did my class expectations list meet the students’ expectations? Scrapping the Success List I decided to try something new in the next class. Why not involve the students in creating their own story for success? What did it mean for each of them to have an active, engaging class? What did they expect from their classmates? From me? From themselves? If they reviewed past classes and grades received, what did it take to get an A? What occurred that resulted in a lower grade?

These questions resulted in leading a brief activity (10-15 minutes tops) on Day One creating a “Class Contract.” Students were asked to describe details of being an A+ student. A list was created that held them accountable for their actions and their overall grade. Likewise, they were asked to describe an A+ instructor. They shared what they expected from me for an A+ classroom experience. I was being held accountable. This list also tied into what students expected from each other in class to create an active learning environment.

Want to see how this activity turned out?

No more, “Bueller… Bueller…?” we had a class contract and student buy-in. Ultimately, the students wanted respect in the classroom, honest communication, and an instructor who cares and leads them to completing quizzes and assignments successfully.

Ironically, most of the instructor expectations focused on how we make the students feel, versus whether we are an expert in the content field. Students expect us to care, share, understand and be fair. Keeping in mind the University policies (ie: 2-day late period at 20% point deduction), class guidelines were complete.

Bottomline: If we let students take control of an activity, it’s amazing how much we can learn!