Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students come to class late.

Students are experiencing emotional or psychological problems.

Several psychological and emotional conditions can undermine students’ motivation to get to class on time.  Indeed, a hallmark symptom of conditions such as depression includes a decreased motivation to engage in normal daily activities.  In addition, prescription medications can interfere with motivation and may disrupt sleep patterns, which may indirectly affect students’ ability to get to class in a timely manner.


Encourage communication.

Make sure students know it is their responsibility to communicate with you if they are experiencing a 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.

Decide how students should make up the work.

If you decide a student has a legitimate reason to come late, you can choose to allow it. However, you should decide what the student’s responsibilities should be vis-à-vis material missed. For example, should the student get lecture notes from you or from a classmate? How will you handle quizzes and exams that start at the beginning of class? After deciding how to handle these issues, make your expectations clear to the student in question, or (better yet) articulate it in your syllabus for all students who come late.

Use campus resources.

If you have a student who seems to be experiencing emotional problems that are interfering with his or her ability to get to class on time (or otherwise function as you would expect), consult with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or the Dean of Student Affairs for advice.

This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person!