Teaching Resources

Designing Student-Focused Classroom Policies

Resource Overview

On this page, you'll find tips for designing effective student-focused classroom policies and some example statements and policies from faculty across WashU.

Student-Focused Policies

A special area of emphasis in syllabus design is in how you craft your course policies. If you are determined to construct an inclusive course, this is one place where you can demonstrate this commitment to students. Students may face any number of complex challenges that make it difficult for them to stay on track in any given semester. The development of flexible, student-centered policies can ensure that your class is ready to support students’ learning whatever the situation. It’s important to note here that this call for flexibility does not mean the CTL is advocating for “anything goes” type policies. You are still responsible for the course, and you must balance your own needs with those of your students. Yet, striking a balance and building some flexibility into your course design through refining class policies will create an improved learning environment.

As you think about your course policies, you’ll want to determine what boundaries are the most appropriate for you. While you should communicate that you care for student well-being and success, setting reasonable boundaries is also critical for setting you and your students up for success. A non-exhaustive list of some boundaries that you might think about setting include when and in what time frame you’ll respond to student emails, when and in what circumstances you will accept late work, and when and in what circumstances students will be allowed to make up missed participation.

Your policies are also a place in the course design process where you can confirm to students your investment in fostering an inclusive learning environment. For example, including statements on your syllabus related to classroom climate can make it clear to all students from day one that there is a place for them in your classroom. Setting policies that describe appropriate student interactions ensures that students have guidelines to follow if classroom conversations get tense or uncomfortable as well. Providing “content forecasts” or “trigger warnings” can prepare students for what to expect when they engage with your course content.

Key Questions as You Refine Classroom Policies

As you examine your existing course policies, consider the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of various policies on your syllabus? (Are the policies in place helping students learn? Keeping you on track? Keeping students’ safe?)
  2. Do your policies explain “why” to students? If a particular policy is in place, it’s a good transparent, inclusive teaching practice to add a sentence or two about why this is your policy. How is this policy designed to support your students and create appropriate boundaries for them?
  3. Are there policies on your syllabus that you don’t actually care to enforce? If so, why are they there? Could they be cut? Often over the course of our careers, our values change. Sometimes this makes for leftover policies that are no longer relevant or important to us.
  4. Are policies written in a positive way? If not, consider re-framing negative language. For example: You might replace “Don’t be late for class” with the more positive “Being on time to class will support your success.” Remember Ken Bains’ framing the syllabus as an “invitation to learning!”
  5. Are your policies equitable? Do expectations potentially create an uneven burden for some students? For example, in requiring a doctor’s note for an excused absence, that may privilege students who can afford to go to the doctor or who have a vehicle that they can use to seek medical attention (note that Habif Health and Wellness no longer provides doctor’s notes). An excused absence policy relying on doctors notes also forces students to disclose medical information that they may not feel comfortable sharing.
  6. Do your polices currently balance structure (making your expectations for students clear and transparent) with flexibility (a recognition that stuff happens and sometimes students might need a little leeway)? For many students (and instructors!) having some structure allows them to manage their time and workload effectively. Meanwhile, having a little flexibility invokes a pedagogy of care that gives students a chance to catch up and acknowledges the difficulties that students may be facing that may make it harder for them to learn. Flexible but structured policies might include:
    • Give students the option of skipping a certain number of small assignments
    • Drop the lowest grade on a quiz, small assignment, or even an exam
    • Allow students turn in late work within a specific time frame (this lateness may or may not be penalized depending on your course context–be transparent about why)
    • Offer one “free” absence, no questions asked. This is important for students who may be embarrassed to find themselves behind or who may be less inclined to reach out when they need help.
    • Build-in opportunities for revision

Suggestions for Creating New Course Polices

If you are new to course design and do not currently have policies that you are revising, instead, consider which policies will be important to set for your students (e.g., participation, attendance, late work, etc.) for the upcoming semester and use the questions above and prompts on the CTL syllabus template to begin crafting student-centered versions of these policies.

Additionally, if you are looking for ways to begin drafting policies for your course, you may wish to peruse some examples below that are in use by other WashU faculty. Note that the CTL isn’t necessarily endorsing any particular policy listed below, but wishes to provide examples that may make it easier to craft your own.

Sample Policies and Statements from WashU Faculty Syllabi

Classroom Climate and DEI-Related Statements

Example 1: Lower-Level, Sam Fox School of Art and Design

Everyone comes with different life experiences. That’s what makes discussion so interesting! Be open and willing to learn how someone else sees the world, and your work. If you disagree with someone’s opinions, please be constructive and respectful in your critique. Avoid short, generic replies such as, “I agree.” You should include why you agree or add to the previous point.  The point of a discussion is to help you and your other students learn through in-depth consideration of important topics. Be sensitive to the diverse nature of people in the class, and be careful about making broad assumptions and generalizations. Diversity issues may include the following and others: race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, marital status, urban vs. rural dwellers, etc.

Example 2: Lower-Level & Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

  • This classroom is a safe space. You will not be marginalized, belittled, or otherwise shut down for your comments, questions, and responses. This does not mean that you cannot express your opinion if it differs from someone else’s, but that we can all converse in a reasonable manner, not like an Internet comment section.
  • Please feel free to speak with me about any concerns you may have about classroom dynamics and/or classroom climate.

Example 3: Upper-Level, Interdisciplinary, Arts & Sciences

Each of you comes from a different cultural landscape, each with its own demographic, racial, religious, linguistic, economic profile, with endless other attributes meaningful to your community, an awareness of which is integral to its sense of being respected by outsiders. A unique natural landscape contains your community and what lies within it binds your community together. As a result, each student has a different sense of what kind of landscape constitutes safety, health and beauty. Whatever your cultural landscape, using effective writing to share the unique nature of your community will promote the success of applied solutions to environmental challenges.

Example 4: Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

In these unprecedented times, I am committed to creating the best possible environment for learning the course material together and growing as a class community, where the students feel supported by the professor and their peers. While we may be unable to predict what may come as the semester progresses, we can be inspired and challenged by feminist thinkers who have raised/continue to raise issues of equity, inclusion, and social justice, which are exceptionally relevant at this moment in history. It is my hope that we can engage in an honest and ethical dialogue on these issues in a way that will broaden our perspectives and deepen our knowledge, and that the insights you will gain from the readings and discussions in this course will help you to meet the challenges of the future. If you have any suggestions that might facilitate your learning in these difficult times, please feel free to let me know. In this spirit, I would like to take the first few minutes of each class for a general “check in” of your well-being and for addressing any questions or concerns that you may have about the class.

Example 5: Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

The best learning environment is one in which all students feel respected while being productively challenged. In our classroom, I am dedicated to fostering an inclusive atmosphere, in which all participants can contribute, explore, and challenge their own ideas as well as those of others. Every participant has an active responsibility to foster a climate of intellectual stimulation, openness, and respect for diverse perspectives, questions, personal backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, although the professor bears primary responsibility for its maintenance. Words and behaviors that do not contribute to creating a climate of intellectual respect and inclusivity for all communities in the classroom–regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, age or ability–will not be tolerated.  Should any concerns arise during the course of the semester with regard to learning climate or inclusiveness in the classroom, students are encouraged to address them directly with the professor. Any personal issues that students bring to the floor during the class discussions should be kept confidential and should not be discussed outside of class.

Example 6: Upper-Level, STEM, Arts & Sciences

I want everyone to grow, to challenge yourselves, and to have fun doing it. I am passionate about establishing an environment in which everyone feels comfortable asking questions, taking guesses (right or wrong!) and contributing knowledge, experience, and opinions. If anything happens in the classroom or online that makes you feel excluded, I want to know about it. We strive for an inclusive, supportive environment free bias or discrimination of any kind.

Example 7: Upper-Level, STEM, Arts & Sciences

Data show that innovation and excellence in science is maximized when it is conducted by people with varied thoughts, experiences, perspectives, and identities. However, while science should ideally be objective, the fact is that it has always been subjective and built largely on a small subset of privileged people. The Department of Biology embraces a notion of intellectual community enriched and enhanced by diversity across all dimensions, including race, ethnicity and national origins, gender and gender identity, sexuality, class, and religion. We are especially committed to increasing the representation of those populations that have been historically excluded from participation in U.S. higher education.

We are diverse in many ways, and this diversity is fundamental to building and maintaining an equitable and inclusive WashU community. We need this diversity to produce creative and effective solutions to address the numerous challenges facing our increasingly complex society.

In this course, I strive to create a safe and inclusive learning environment that supports a diversity of interests, backgrounds, and outlooks. To help accomplish this:

  • If you have a name and/or set of pronouns that differ from those that appear in your official WashU records, please let me know!
  • If you feel like your performance in the class is being impacted by your experiences outside of class, please don’t hesitate to come and talk with me. I want to be a resource for you. You can also submit anonymous feedback (which will lead to me making a general announcement to the class, if necessary to address your concerns).
  • I (like many people) am still in the process of learning about diverse perspectives and identities. If something was said in class (by anyone) that made you feel uncomfortable, please talk to me about it. (Again, anonymous feedback is always an option).

If you find yourself wondering whether the ways in which you are different from your peers or from the historical scientific figures make you less qualified to be a student or a scientist, please remember this: the only thing we care about in this class is what you can do, and we promise to work to make sure you have what you need to be able to do it. Our fields, like all fields, need more and more people like you (and unlike you) to show what they can do. And if you feel empowered already, we hope you will join us in empowering your peers.

Example 8: Upper-Level, McKelvey School of Engineering

This class utilizes a great deal of group work. Each of us are unique: the way we look, where and how we grew up, how we think, the way we communicate, and more. All of us need to be respectful of each person’s differences because everyone is valued.

Content Forecasts and Trigger Warning Statements

Example 1: Lower-Level & Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

This is a course that deals with visual art. Specifically, modern (and contemporary) art. There will be nudity, pornography, violence, allusions to sexual violence, suicide, graphic imagery, strobing/flashing lights, and possibly others that I haven’t even thought of. Consider this a blanket content warning for the entire course. In addition, I will do my best to give specific warnings when warranted, and you are welcome to slip out the door or put your head down either before or during a given image if you need to.

However – I would like to distinguish between a psychological trigger and sensitivity/squeamishness. Some of the artworks we will see in class are contingent on their shock value, the emotional affect that they engender in the viewer. I will do my best to moderate between providing appropriate warnings and letting you experience the art as it was intended. Ultimately, you know yourself best: if you are still working through trauma and are hesitant about the course, you may discuss this with me in private to see if this is a class that you should take.

Participation Policies

Example 1: Lower-Level, Sam Fox School of Art and Design

Engaged participation and preparation is critical for the class to be successful–we need all of you! Participation + Engagement is 20% of your course grade, and includes the following: 

  • engaged participation in all class sessions, activities and discussions
  • active participation in small group sessions
  • preparation for class activities and discussion, ie: pre-reading or watching material
  • preparation for small group project deadlines
  • timely completion of course submissions, ie: responses, presentations, and other written material
  • timely completion of course studio projects (note: see option for grade revision under “Grading and Assessment”)

You will be given a grade for each half of the semester.

Example 2: Lower-Level, STEM, Arts & Sciences

Participation is encouraged and expected throughout lectures, group activities, and journal club discussions. The instructor’s role during activities and discussions is that of a moderator. Participation should not be dependent on “right” or “wrong” answers, rather, on thoughtful contributions which constructively advance the level and depth of discourse (and this includes questions – asking questions is helpful for all participants in the class).

Students will be awarded a perfect score (80 points) as long as they frequently arrive to class on time and actively contribute to class lectures, discussions, journal clubs, and activities.

Example 3: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Effort and active engagement are crucial in this course, and will be manifest not only in your degree of participation in class, but in Canvas posts and other activities. Given the realities of COVID learning, I realize you may not be able to bring vigor to every class discussion. But I ask you to come to each session prepared to contribute in some fashion, even if only posing a question to others. At the end of the semester, I will assess your overall effort and engagement, and—if you have been actively engaged—give you an extra 1/3 of a letter grade “bump” on the final grade (so, you can go from A- to A). And I reserve the right to deduct 1/3 of a letter grade if you are totally disengaged. Please read on further for more about maximizing your contributions in class.

Example 4: Lower-Level, Social Sciences, Arts & Sciences

Your grade is not based on simple attendance and assignment completion; it is based on active participation during EACH CLASS.  The class will involve discussions, both small group and whole class, that focus on course materials, texts, articles, case studies, and presentations.  The expectation is that participants will be thoroughly prepared for class, (i.e., read all material, thoughtfully participate in class, and assume periodic responsibility for leadership of discussions).  Discussions will be concerned with 1) recovery of meaning (arguments authors make), 2) reconstruction of meaning (interpretations based on personal/ professional experiences), and 3) relationship to the broader field of special education (how the readings link to developing understanding of special education and to participants’ professional interests).

Example 5: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Participation does not always require one to speak.  You participate by listening, taking notes, doing group work and asking questions.  If you are unable to attend class you can still earn participation points by responding to all questions posed by students and instructor on the daily discussion within 48 hours of missing class.   You can earn partial credit if you respond more than two days after class, but before the end of the module.  Exceptions will be made for illness or emergency, provided you contact the instructor when you’re unable to be in class.

Example 6: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Come to class having read and annotated the material, prepared to contribute meaningfully to discussion and participate in any in-class writing activities. Your participation grade may be negatively affected by the following: failing to contribute at least one productive comment per class session, failure to bring required readings to class, failure to read in preparation for class, use of phones during class, use of computers during class.

The participation rubric is as follows:

Exceptional participation, well above what is typical of Wash U students. Students who participate at the “A” level make it their job to help build the classroom community, ensuring a safe space for all. They are community-oriented, not self-oriented; they help others develop their ideas and ask for help in return. They are learning-oriented, not grade-oriented. Their genuine interest and investment in the content of the course is apparent.

A-  Excellent participation, the kind typical of strong Wash U students, marked by a number of productive content-based comments each class session, neither too many or too few, and a general spirit of collegiality. Most students receive this grade.

B+ Acceptable participation, but the student may be contributing slightly too infrequently. In some cases, contributions may be only surface-level, simple agreement/disagreement, or otherwise not as sophisticated as they could be. Less commonly, the student may be contributing so much that others don’t have a chance to contribute. The student is clearly making an effort to participate, but may need to redirect or redouble their energies.

B  Uneven participation, or participation that in some respect falls below the category of “acceptable”; instructor/student meeting recommended.

B- Student often fails to read or otherwise prepare for class, may contribute not at all or in ways that aren’t related to course content; instructor/student meeting required.

Example 7: Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Students are expected to attend classes regularly, regardless of the modality, participate actively in discussions, raise and answer questions, respond to fellow students productively, and make thoughtful and analytical comments about the course material. The class engagement grade will also reflect your preparation and overall level of investment in classroom discussions and activities, including listening to any required videos before class. You will receive a class engagement grade three times during the semester; however, if improvement is made during the course of the semester, the lowest of the three grades will be dropped.

Example 8: Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Active, thoughtful participation is the cornerstone of this course, which is why engagement is worth such a high portion of your final grade. “Engagement” means that you are thinking about the material, asking questions, demonstrating your understanding of core concepts, and making connections between ideas. It also recognizes that there are many ways to participate in class. Maybe you enjoy class discussions and raise your hand to talk often. Maybe you are more introverted and don’t always feel comfortable expressing your thoughts out loud. I encourage you to challenge yourself in this course, but I also know that there are many different styles of engaging and learning. I have created a variety of opportunities for you to show your engagement with this course. Please make note of the due dates.

Example 9:  WashU Law

While the exam is responsible for the bulk of your grade, good performance in class discussion can raise your grade and poor performance can lower it. In evaluating your classroom performance, being engaged and working hard to think through the issues is more important than making brilliant insights. Not everyone feels comfortable thinking on their feet, especially in a public setting, and I understand that. I mostly care that you are prepared for class and that you are trying hard to learn and taking our work together seriously. Regular participation in polling exercises will also factor into class participation.

Example 10: Upper-Level, McKelvey School of Engineering

I want this course to be interactive and with an open and supportive atmosphere. Ask questions! My main objectives are to foster a deep understanding of the topic and for students to develop skills that they will need in the engineering workforce (including working independently and with incomplete problem statements). To achieve these goals, every student is responsible for creating a respectful and supportive learning environment! This includes being on time (i.e., be present in the classroom AT 8:30 am).

Example 11: Upper-Level, McKelvey School of Engineering

In short, this part of your grade is assessing whether you’re are an active participant in the course activities, a good citizen in our course environment (for more information on what I expect for the course environment, see the section under Other Important Course Policies), and an active communicator with me.

It is not an attendance grade, as there are many circumstances in which you may not be able to attend class (or may not want to for whatever reason), and I trust you to be a good judge of whether your time is best spent elsewhere. That being said, we will be doing many in-class activities, and because I value fair and equitable student engagement, I will be calling on each of you to respond to questions. Thus, if you cannot attend class, it is important to tell me ahead of time. If I expect you to be there and you do not respond, you may start losing credit in the Professionalism category.

Side note: If you’re intimidated by the idea that I will call on you in class, please don’t be! You will always be able to discuss the question with peers first, and it is entirely okay to say you don’t know the answer.

Assignment Deadlines and Late Work Policies

Example 1: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Late homework will be accepted without penalty prior to the relevant unit test or seven (7) days after the due date (whichever comes later). Quizzes, tests, or other assignments submitted through Canvas must be submitted on time regardless of absence from class. Graded items from classroom sessions (quizzes or assignments) missed due to absence may be made up during scheduled office hours. Alternate due dates, assignments, quizzes, and tests must be arranged at least seven (7) days in advance.

Example 2: Lower-Level, STEM, Arts & Sciences

Each individual homework set is worth 1% of your overall grade. The top 20 homework sets will be counted (meaning, you can drop some homework sets), yielding 20% of your overall grade.

Example 3: Lower-Level, STEM, Arts & Sciences

We will drop the lowest two quiz scores from your grade. This way, if you need to be absent or just have a busy week, you’re covered. If you miss more than two quizzes, the remaining missed quizzes will count as zeroes. The only circumstance under which a quiz may be made up is a medical emergency verified with a doctor’s note. We will drop the lowest exam score from your grade. This means that if you are happy with your grade after the 4th exam, you can opt not to take the final exam.

Given the large number of students in this class, there will be no changes in the exam dates, so if you have conflicts in your Spring schedule with any of these dates, you should take this course in a different semester. Similarly, if you need to miss class you will not accumulate participation credit for that session.

The only exceptions to this are:

  • A required University-sponsored event, such as an athletic competition. Because sponsored events are scheduled well in advance you must notify me of these by email no later than xxx, explaining which exam or class you must miss and the University event that you will be attending.
  • A medical emergency verified with a doctor’s note. If you have a COVID-19 diagnosis symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or close exposure to someone with a COVID-19 diagnosis, this counts as a medical emergency. You should call the COVID hotline and submit documentation.

Example 4: Upper-Level, Interdisciplinary, Arts & Sciences

Assignments are due by the due date stated in Canvas and on the syllabus.

  • Late paper drafts and revisions, including the Cultural Guide, will receive 4 points off the assessed grade (out of 20 points)
  • Assignments and discussions will close completely to late submissions one week after the due date.

Example 5: Upper-Level, Social Science, Arts & Sciences

Extensions for individual assignments may be granted if you ask in advance. Otherwise, if you do not submit an assignment when it is due, then points will be deducted from the grade that you would have received had you turned it in on time. 5% of the total points for the assignment will be deducted per day (or fraction thereof) that it is overdue; assignments that are more than 20 days overdue will receive a grade of 0.

Example 6: Upper-Level, McKelvey School of Engineering

Late submission of daily polls, in-class example worksheets, “corrected” DHW submissions, and essays will result in an automatic 10% point deduction per day (maximum deduction: 50%), unless the student sought for instructor approval for a deadline extension prior to the original submission date.

Example 7: Upper-Level, McKelvey School of Engineering

The lowest homework score will be dropped. If I feel that the overall course was too difficult, I may uniformly lower the grade cutoffs (i.e., make it easier to achieve a given grade). There is no preset distribution of final grades (i.e., I would happily give an “A” to everyone, provided it is earned). If >85% of the class completes the end-of-semester evaluation, I will award a 2% bonus to everyone’s grade.

Attendance Policies

Example 1: Lower-Level, Sam Fox School of Art and Design

Class time is critical to learning, and prompt attendance during our class times, scheduled meetings, and critiques is expected. Our COA attendance policy: Students are allowed two unexcused absences. An unexcused absence is an absence that does not fall into the exemptions below. You are allowed two unexcused absences from class. Two unexcused absences will result in a Notice of Concern.  After two unexcused absences, continued unexcused absences will result in a lowering of your final grade. Three late arrivals and/or early departures will equal one absence. If a student misses more than 20 minutes of a class, they are considered absent… Any student who misses class is responsible for contacting a fellow student or the teaching assistant to find out what they missed, for making up the work, and for being prepared for the next class. Unless we have made special arrangements prior to the due date, you are still responsible for getting projects to me, through a friend, or digitally through the Box folder. (see “Grading” for late and reworked projects).

Example 2: Lower-Level, Social Sciences, Arts & Sciences

For each of the 14 class sessions in which you participate, you will receive 10 points.  To obtain full credit, you must arrive on time (3 points), participate fully (4 points), and remain until the end of the class (3 points).  The first 10 attendance points will be awarded to students who submit their initial survey by noon on the first day of class.  If you find that you are unable to attend a class session, please email me prior to your absence.  With approval, you may make up class participation points for no more than two (2) missed sessions with alternative assignments as determined by the instructor. Be sure to mention this option if you are interested at the time of your absence.  

Example 3: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Both attendance and participation are crucial in this course, and only 2 absences from class session (whether live or via Zoom) will be allowed without repercussion. However, due to the COVID situation, I will be very responsive to case-specific needs and requests for accommodation. If you find you are faced with illness or personal obligations that will disrupt attendance beyond the 2 required, and/or that will impact your effort and overall preparedness/performance, we can work to find alternative arrangements. Please let me know as soon as possible if you find yourself in such a situation.

Example 4: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Attendance Grade: This grade will appear in Canvas as “roll call attendance”.  If you are on time and remain in class for the duration you earn full credit.  Everyone is allowed two excused absences.  Absences may also be excused by the instructor for illness, emergency, religious holiday, participation in a Washington University related Sport or Club (with note from coach or faculty supervisor) or military deployment.  Please email the instructor to request an excused absence.

Example 5: Lower-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

Three (3) excused absences are permitted during the semester. Absences are excused only with explicit written authorization of the instructor, including for illness or university events. Additional or unexcused absences will result in a grade penalty. Absences for religious obligations do not count towards the three excused absences and are considered excused, but please let me know at least seven (7) days prior to the absence. Absences due to extended illness (including Covid-19) will be handled on an individual basis. If you are quarantined but not seriously ill, you are expected to submit all assigned work.

Example 6: Upper-Level, Humanities, Arts & Sciences

This class is discussion-based, so it is important that students attend class regularly, whether class is delivered in person or remotely. Given the uncertain circumstances we all face, undergraduate students will be allowed 3 unexcused absences without need for justification. Graduate students are professionals-in-training and are, therefore, expected to attend every class, unless there is a legitimate reason for an absence.* However, given the exceptional circumstances we are facing, grad students will be allowed a maximum of two absences during the course of the semester. Each unexcused absence beyond those allotted (3 for undergrads, 2 for grads) will lower the class engagement grade by 5 percentage points. If there are extenuating circumstances for these absences, please notify the professor.

*Legitimate excuses for missing class include suspected Covid symptoms or exposure, other serious health issues, family emergencies, religious holidays, professional conferences, and job or medical school interviews that cannot be scheduled at any other time.

Example 7: Washington University School of Law

I will expect each of you to be present and on time for each class, with some allowances for the difficulties caused by the pandemic. Just as important, I expect you to be prepared: that means having done the reading and being ready to discuss it. (Please also bring a copy of the casebook with you, because we will be studying the language of the cases carefully together). I will call on a number of students each class and ask them to talk about the cases and other materials we have read and to work through questions. I will take attendance using SeatGen…You are permitted six “passes” in the semester. Missing class, or showing up for class unprepared, requires one pass. If you are unable to attend class, or are attending without being prepared, please submit a pass form at the following website at least 30 minutes before class (do not email).

Separately, you may be absent from class if you fail the University’s required health screening, due to a positive COVID test or the other criteria requiring exclusion from campus. Health-screening-based absences do not count towards your six passes, but you must still fill out the pass form and note that you are missing class for that reason.

If using a pass, you do not need to tell me why you are missing class or unprepared; you simply need to fill out the form…If you do not submit the form in advance and fail to attend, or show up for class unprepared, you will be marked for two passes. Absent extraordinary circumstances, a student with more than six passes will be penalized on the final grade. (The more absences beyond four, the greater the penalty will be).

Example 8: Upper-Level, Interdisciplinary, Arts & Sciences

  • In-person attendance is expected at each class.
  • Three absences for any reason are allowed, without effecting your final grade.
  • Each absence beyond those three will reduce your final grade by a 1⁄2 increment. In other words, if you have a B+ at the end of the semester, but missed four classes, your final grade will be a B.

Exceptions to the general policy will be made in the case of a COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or exposure to a person with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis that requires quarantine or isolation. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID 19, (meaning you do not receive a green check on your daily screening), I encourage you to stay home. Do not come to campus, or, stay in your residential hall.

In these cases, please notify me as soon as possible to discuss appropriate accommodations. You will need to forward to me the results of your self-screening or a follow-up email from Habif or the COVID Call Center to document your need to miss class due to COVID symptoms or exposure. I will not share your COVID-19 diagnosis or any other health information with others.

Absences due to COVID will not affect your final grade.

Example 9: Upper-Level, McKelvey School of Engineering

Missing class and arriving late is discouraged. If you must miss class, inform XXX beforehand and she will work with you to help you catch up on missed material. If your absence from class is not due to emergency, illness, or participation in official University athletic events, and you do not inform XXX beforehand, you will receive a zero for the applications and/or readiness assurance processes that you missed.


Further Reading:

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Harvard UP.

Eberly Center. (n.d.). The Syllabus: Course Policies / Expectations. Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University.

Harnish, R.J. & Bridges, K.R. (2011). “Effects of syllabus tone: Students’ perceptions of instructor and course. Social Psychology of Education, 14(3), p. 319-330.

Johnson, Matthew. (2021, August 11). 10 Course Polices to Rethink on Your Syllabus. The Chronicle of  Higher Education.

Matthews, M. (2020, July 14). Centering Student Needs. Inside Higher Ed.

Oleson, Kathryn C. (2021). Promoting inclusive classroom dynamics in higher education: A research-based pedagogical guide for faculty. Stylus. See in particular pp.98-106.

Schacter, H. et al. (2021). Creating a compassionate classroom. Inside HigherEd

Stringer, R. (2016). Trigger warnings in university teaching. Women’s Studies Journal, 30(2), 62-66.

Zinger, J. (2020, July 24). Compassionate flexibility: Rethinking course policies and deadlines in the time of Covid-19. American Psychological Association.


Have suggestions?

If you have suggestions of resources we might add to these pages, please contact us:

ctl@wustl.edu(314) 935-6810Mon - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.