Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students come to class late.

Students have physical or logistical reasons for coming late.

In some instances, a student may find it difficult to make it to class on time because of the physical distance between sequential classes.  This may be particularly true of students with a class prior to yours that meets off-campus (e.g., Mellon Institute or the University of Pittsburgh). Students may also experience either chronic or temporary physical impairments that make getting from class to class challenging.


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.

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.

Minimize the disruption.

If being late to class is unavoidable for some students, consider ways to minimize the disruption their late arrival could cause for others in the class. For example, some instructors reserve a set of seats at the back of the room for latecomers.

This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
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