Professional Etiquette and the Student

Okay, so we are now three weeks into my semester at Pacific and some questions have emerged among my non-traditional as well as first year students about what is appropriate etiquette in class. It is funny that this should come up now, as I am presenting a paper on this topic in October at the Center for Scholastic Inquiry’s International Conference.

Here are some of the questions students asked in advising with me:

How do I address my professors? Doctor? Professor? First name?

Is it okay for me to tape record lectures?

Is it okay for me to bring my laptop to class?

I worry about childcare, is it okay if I leave my phone on during class?

The answer to all of these questions is…
It depends.

It used to be that professional classroom etiquette was relatively straightforward. When I was in college, most of the technology we have today was not around, so this was the list of things not to do in class:
1. Don’t speak without first raising your hand
2. Don’t wear your hat in the building (really, this was a rule), ditto for wearing torn shirts or clothes that had beer slogans (again yes, really this was a rule).
3. Don’t be late
4. Don’t leave early
5. Don’t talk during lecture
6. Address everyone as “professor”
7. Make an appointment to see your professor outside of class
8. Submit original work (i.e., no cheating off your neighbor)

That was about it. Now though, you have professors from that same generation still teaching. You have professors of my generation (Gen X) also teaching, who feel a bit more relaxed about these rules (I could care less what your shirt says and if your hair is dirty, by all means, wear a hat), as well as Millennials entering the professorial profession. They often don’t care about cell phones, laptops, whatever.

So what do you do? How do you navigate the classroom from professor to professor, when all of them have different ideas about what is appropriate professional behavior?

I would say that the old school rules are good to follow (my list above) just to be safe. Your professors will hopefully tell you what their expectations are in the classroom and you should likely adopt whatever is the most conservative of expectations. Are they sometimes dated? Yes. But in the interest of manners and in maintaining rapport with your instructors, do it anyway. We all have to do stuff we don’t agree with or like.

Also here are some links that specifically talk about this issue:


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