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How to Behave in a College Classroom

by Neil Kokemuller

Expectations for student conduct in college classrooms generally fall into three categories -- attendance and participation, respectful behavior and academic integrity. Colleges typically have lengthy student handbooks and conduct codes that offer some guidance on how students should act in class. Each instructor may have more specific requirements laid out in his course syllabus at the start of class.

Attentiveness

The starting point of classroom behavior is attendance, punctuality and attentiveness. While some students feel that paying tuition affords them the right to choose whether to go to class, school and instructor attendance policies usually suggest otherwise. At some point, non-attending students are removed from or fail classes, and without correction, school. While in class, a basic level of attentiveness is also expected. This includes staying awake and alert. Some classes even have participation requirements that include graded elements.

Respectful Attitude

A September 2009 article in the "Chicago Tribune" lamented the fact that many professors have grown concerned that over-reliance on technology for communication has left some college students without rudimentary social skills and basic politeness. Showing up on time and projecting respect to instructors, guest speakers and classmates are basics. This includes not talking to others while class is going on. Moving bags around and packing up early are other disruptive behaviors that could draw the ire of an instructor.

Use of Technology

Technology could fit into discussion of classroom respect and distractions, but it deserves its own category. The emergence of cellphones, laptops and computer notebooks in the early 21st century has presented a compelling dilemma for college instructors and students. Policies on the use of such devices vary by school and class. Often, each instructor has the right to designate rules for his class. Following these rules is the best behavior. Some instructors establish in course guides that students don't use any of these technologies in class. Others ban cellphones only. Views on this issue vary because some instructors believe these things distract from face-to-face interaction. Others may encourage students to use technology for classroom purposes. Monitoring this is a challenge, though.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity policies are clearly outlined in most college handbooks and enforced by classroom instructors. Cheating on tests, plagiarizing on papers and reports, posing as someone else to complete work and falsifying records are major elements of academic integrity. First-time offenses, such as cheating on a test or plagiarizing, can lead to failure on a test or project or even an entire class. Schools often have disciplinary reporting systems for instructors, and multiple reports of academic dishonesty may lead to suspension or expulsion from school.

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