Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students come to class late.

Students don’t take responsibility for themselves.

While the majority of students are responsible and mature, there are some who struggle with the independence college provides and who fail to do what they need to do (e.g., set an alarm clock, allow sufficient time to get ready in the morning, figure out the bus schedule) to get to class on time. They may also not recognize that it is their responsibility to communicate with instructors when they are unable to meet their obligations (e.g., because of physical or emotional problems or conflicting obligations). Students of the Millennial generation, who are used to a high degree of parental involvement and oversight in their lives and schedules, may have particular difficulty adjusting to these responsibilities.


Make your expectations explicit.

Clearly and unequivocally articulate your policy about lateness in your syllabus and on the first day of class. You might want to explain your policy in relation to standards of professionalism that students will need to meet when they enter the work world.

Have consequences for lateness.

There are a number of ways to penalize lateness. Some instructors institute a lateness policy along with their attendance policy (e.g., two late arrivals counts as one absence). Some simply draw attention to the behavior or register disapproval when a student enters late (e.g., pausing, frowning and making a pointed comment, or posting a sign on the door such as “You’re late; please be quiet when you enter”). One instructor posts a note on his classroom door with a task – generally something mildly embarrassing like singing a verse from a song – that students must do to gain admittance if they arrive late. Another way to handle lateness is to give short quizzes at the beginning of class; students who come late will miss the quizzes and lose the points.

Encourage communication.

Make sure students know it is their responsibility to communicate with you if they are experiencing a legitimate problem that will cause them to be late or otherwise miss class time, but also advise them as to how you would like them to inform you (e.g., via e-mail the night before). You may also need to define for them what you do and do not consider a “legitimate” reason for a late arrival.

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