Managing Student Expectations: Etiquette and Examples

Further my previous post, I have developed an initial guide for my students as to my expectations (and  responsibilities) for my upcoming module. The aim of this document was to provide a written record of my expectations for students and what I believe will help them achieve a high mark (and level of understanding). Comments and queries are very welcome.

Independent reading in The Atlantic World, 1491-1815 is the student’s primary opportunity to obtain factual information and explore key historiographical debates. However, students should not expect that individual readings will provide answers to either the essay or exam questions. Instead, students should consider the connections and contradictions between different readings. For example, does the argument of one article contradict the evidence of another? or, Does the evidence used in one argument support the argument of another article as well?

Although each week will list 2-4 required texts, students should understand that there is no ideal number of readings on any given topic. Students should explore as many texts as they feel they need to understand and discuss the topic. Failure to read the required texts, however, will prevent students from having common ground during seminars and make these sessions far less helpful. The tutor will not provide summaries of the required texts during seminar sessions.

Students should take notes from reading to suit their own learning preferences. However, students should always note the full bibliographic reference as well as make it clear whether they are quoting or paraphrasing the text. Failure to do this may result in the student unintentionally plagiarising their reading in their assessed work. 

Lectures in The Atlantic World, 1491-1815 are opportunities for students to expand their perspectives on key themes through comparative analysis. Student should not expect attendance at lectures to replace required or supplementary reading on these themes. Instead, students should use lecture materials to place their readings into a wider context and to suggest additional possibilities for independent study.

Prior to attending the weekly lecture, students should read the relevant textbook chapter, listed on the module website at As lectures will not necessarily provide a complete narrative of historical events, students should familiarise themselves with the chronology of the period prior to attendance.

24 hours prior to the lecture, a PowerPoint presentation file will be made available on the module website at

24 hours after the lecture, an audio recording of the lecture will be made available on the same page.

Students with questions regarding the lecture should ‘tweet’ the module Twitter account (@Warwick_AM214) for clarification. The lecturer will address all points within 48 hours via Twitter as well as create a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), to be posted alongside the PowerPoint and Podcast of the lecture.

Students wishing to address the peers’ questions may do so, but should ‘Reply’ rather than send a ‘Direct (private) Message’ so that the lecturer is aware the question has been answered.

As the majority of factual information will be made available through the textbook and PowerPoint materials, and may be accessed at any time before or after the lecture, students should consider taking reflective notes during the lectures. For example, rather transcribe the definitions of ‘suzerainty’ and ‘sovereignty’, students may wish to note down how these definitions relate to their reading and notes from previous weeks or what they should look for in their future research. For example:

Suzerainty – such as de Gama’s scouting for trading posts and ports for resupplying ships

Students are then encouraged to consolidate their notes from lectures and independent reading to help cement their understanding. For example:

Suzerainty – The relationship between two individuals or groups, in which one offers protection or support in return for political loyalty or tribute in goods or services. The ‘weaker’ individual or group retains some autonomy and the ‘stronger’ does not have to expend the same level of resources to maintain control.

Suzerainty – de Gama’s scouting for trading posts and ports for resupplying ships 

“The small kingdom of Portugal, with a population of 1 million in 1500, quickly established a far-flung network of trading factories beyond Africa and India.”

Consolidated notes (for use in exam preparation):
Portugal’s expansion in the Atlantic, and into the Indian Ocean, was an example of suzerainty rather than sovereignty. It developed a very large trading network, which created a large amount of wealth, without having to militarise its relatively small population to physically conquer and control these same territories.

Seminar discussion in The Atlantic World, 1491-1815 allows students to confirm their understanding of the factual information presented in lectures and readings, as well as debate the interpretation of this information with their peers and tutor. Students should not expect to obtain any new factual information from the tutor during these sessions. Instead, students should come to seminars prepared to explain their own interpretation of the reading material, as well as any questions they have regarding specific evidence or arguments.

The aim of the seminar is not to collect a large amount of new information, but to refine and organise the information students already possess.

In order to prepare for seminars, students should complete the required reading listed at and prepare consolidated notes from the reading and lectures. Each seminar page has a list of preparation questions that may help in the creation of consolidated notes.
Students should also obtain a further piece of reading and complete the historiography worksheet (see for details).

The tutor does not expect students to perform or demonstrate their memorisation of factual information during seminars. Instead, the tutor will act as a facilitator in a discussion between students regarding their interpretations of historical events and processes. During the first seminar, the tutor will work with the group to establish rules of etiquette that will help everyone participate and enjoy these discussions. These will include:

  • Who, if anyone, should lead the discussion each week? The tutor? A different student each week?
  • Who will decide which topics will be discussed? The discussion leader? The tutor? The group?
  • Who will decide when to move onto the next topic?
  • How should someone indicate they wish to speak? Raise their hand? Facial expressions?
  • Who should pass the conversation onto the next person? The person currently speaking? The discussion leader?

Seminars are opportunities for discussion rather than information gathering. Therefore, note-taking should be very limited, such as quickly noting new authors or pieces of evidence offered by peers. Students may decide, as a group, to allocate time for reflective writing during the seminar in order to consolidate thoughts raised from the discussion.

As a courtesy to peers, electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops should be turned off and put away during the discussion. During collaborative work, note-taking devices may be used. 


If you have a short, general comment or query, such as a broken link or directions to an electronic resource, you may ‘tweet’ the module account (@Warwick_AM214). Tweets will normally be answered within 2-4 hours, between 9am and 4pm, Monday through Friday.

Students should feel free to use the hashtag #AM214 to discuss the module, share resources and answer each other’s general queries.

Emails ( should be sent from your university email account and clearly labelled with the following subject heading:

Module Code – Group Number – Full name – Subject of email

such as

AM214 – Group 3 – John Doe – Broken Link on Seminar Reading List

I use email ‘rules’ to automatically filter my inbox to ensure that I answer student queries as soon as possible. If you format your subject as above, I will endeavour to answer your query within 24 hours, Monday to Friday, or during my next scheduled office hour, whichever is sooner. If you fail to use the correct subject heading, or use a non-university email address, your email may not be answered in a timely manner or may be mistakenly deleted as SPAM but the university filters.

During term, emails will only be answered between 9-5, Monday to Friday. Queries regarding the module during term break will generally be answered within 2-4 days. As an active researcher, I may be undertaking research out of the country during term breaks and may have limited access to email during these times. An out-of-office message will inform you if you can expect a delay of more than 2-4 days. 


Each week, I will hold two office-hour sessions, Tuesday 1-2 and Thursday 2-3. You may drop by my office (Humanities H0.25) during these hours without an appointment to discuss any issues you are having with the module or to seek additional help with your assessed work. You may alternatively email me to set up an appointment for another time and day.

During regular office hours, you may call me at 02476 151050 with any queries.

During regular office hours, you may use instant messaging or voice chat to contact me on Skype. My username is DrMelodeeBeals.

2 thoughts on “Managing Student Expectations: Etiquette and Examples

  1. Katrina Navickas

    I love this; so thorough and clear.
    I would tweet a version of this to my students: otherwise if they receive it all in one document some would just go: 'tl; dr'.

  2. M. H. Beals

    I was certainly concerned that it might be too much information all at once. I'm not sure I could manage to separate it into 180 character pieces though. Perhaps a link to a section, once a day, for the first week of term? I am planning on having the module twitter feed in the side bar of the module page for those student who can't (or won't) use twitter directly.

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