Add a contract to your syllabus

Lois Lake Church, University of Connecticut, Quinnipiac University, Southern CT State U, Charter Oak State College

In my freshman composition courses, one of the early lessons students must learn is how high school and college classroom expectations differ. At the end of my syllabus (which includes policies and procedures, and a class plan for the semester), I add a contract explaining behaviors and attitudes I expect of students who want to be successful. I invite students to discuss any points with me in person or in writing. I used to ask them to sign a copy of the contract, but now say that their returning to class is a tacit pledge to abide by the points of the contract. I have yet to find a student who quibbles or refuses. Here is a copy:

CONTRACT, Introduction to Academic Writing, Fall 2013

I agree to:

Attend every class awake, aware, and prepared to be an active learner

Communicate clearly and with proper etiquette with both prof and classmates

Understand the absence/lateness policy and abide by it

Complete every assignment (both classwork and homework)

Demonstrate ~willingness to attempt difficult reading, thinking, and writing

~belief in my own potential

~the effort to form positive attitudes and habits

~an open mind when encountering unfamiliar ideas, people, and activities

Listen with respect to classmates and teacher

Consider other viewpoints

Document carefully any use of others’ words and ideas

Build my vocabulary daily

Understand that it is not the teacher’s job to entertain me: it is my job to find a way to care about each assignment

Check my email and the class page each day for messages from teachers and group mates

Avoid visiting social network sites and personal email addresses during class and tutorial sessions

Leave outside the classroom non-academic habits of behavior and mind

Leave turned off and put away all electronic devices (except computer or tablet when we are writing electronically)

Abide by the University’s Code of Student Conduct: (I attach a link)

By continuing to attend this class, I tacitly pledge my honor to meet or exceed the standards listed above, and to accept the consequences without whining or appealing if my behavior falls outside the behavior outlined in these standards.