Classroom Covenant: Yes? No?

3 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2017

See all articles by Mark E. Haskins

Mark E. Haskins

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


Junior and senior faculty members collaborate on crafting a classroom covenant.



Aug. 6, 2015

Classroom Covenant: Yes? No?

A Junior Faculty Member

Assistant Professor Raj Minorajon stared at his calendar with a healthy combination of nervousness and anticipation. His teaching career at the Harris Graduate School of Business would commence in one week. He had been assigned to one of the first-semester sections of the school's required finance course. Years of anticipation and preparation were finally coming to a climactic new beginning. His scholarly research agenda was underway. The course syllabus he had had a small part in developing in conjunction with the other members of the required finance course teaching team had been turned in and posted on the school portal. On his desk, he had a complete packet of the course materials, and, in his mind's eye, he could see the course as it would unfold during the next eight weeks. But what he could not quite get a firm grip on pertained to the ethos of the classroom—the expectations students had of him and what he was willing to commit to for them. Similarly, he wondered if he really had a robust, appropriate handle on what he could and should expect of students, and he had no clue if they had any inkling of what those expectations were. Not only was this collection of expectations a seemingly dynamic, evolving, never-quite-concrete array of wants, hopes, and musings, it also evoked the question, “Should they be explicitly communicated to the students if clarified and articulate, and if so, when and how?” Minorajon wasn't sure what to do with those questions.

A Senior Faculty Member

Marcia Morton, the Harry S. Holt Professor of Organizational Behavior (OB), stared at her calendar with a healthy combination of nervousness and anticipation. She was beginning her 30th year at the Harris School in a few days. Like last year, she was heading up the teaching team of four other instructors for the school's first-semester required OB course and teaching one of the sections herself. Morton enjoyed teaching and over the years she had garnered her fair share of teaching accolades from the school and from her students. It was pretty clear at this stage in her career that her reputation as a teacher preceded her at the start of a new term. The student grapevine was alive and active. All summer, however, she had wrestled with a concern that would not recede. It seemed to her that whenever she or her colleagues began a new term, with a classroom of new students, there was a host of expectations that were never quite voiced, never quite sanctioned or debunked, and never quite committed to. Those expectations pertained to what students could expect from her and what she expected in return from them. After all these years, Morton was beginning to think it would make for a clearer, more energizing start to the course if those expectations were codified and shared. If nothing else, such shared communication would satisfy a deep-seated desire on her part to be as forthcoming and transparent as possible and to also establish the foundations for what she perceived as most conducive to student learning and effective/enjoyable class discussions.

The Dean's Welcome Reception

. . .

Keywords: classroom ethos, teaching expectations

Suggested Citation

Haskins, Mark E., Classroom Covenant: Yes? No?. Darden Case No. UVA-PHA-0073, Available at SSRN: or

Mark E. Haskins (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924 -4826 (Phone)


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