Ethical Teaching Behaviors

As an instructor you are in a position to powerfully influence student behavior, and therefore have ethical responsibility. Here we identify some critical ethical principles, and some examples of how to apply them:

Respect Autonomy

Do not infringe on a student's right to make independent decisions. Show respect for others and their opinions.

  • in your lectures and classroom discussions, clearly distinguish facts from opinions
  • allow students to develop and express opinions or beliefs that differ from yours
  • give students flexibility in choosing topics for course projects or papers


Above all, do no harm. Avoid putting others at risk or intentionally harming others.

  • come to class well-prepared, not only with lecture and other classroom activities, but answers to anticipated questions
  • explain basis of grading on written assignments or exams
  • thoroughly cover course content
  • show patience with slow learners
  • respect the opinions and beliefs of your students


Actively contribute to the health and welfare of others.

  • help students understand course material
  • show enthusiasm for teaching and topic
  • provide clear expectations for assignments
  • promote cooperation among students
  • help students know how best to study for your course
  • model the important academic skills of critical thinking and content synthesis
  • help students who are having difficulties


In other words, fairness and equity. Sexism, racism and other bias are campus justice issues.

  • provide objectives and requirements for assessments beforehand (a rubric is a great way to do this)
  • fairly evaluate students' knowledge of material covered in the course
  • equitably apply classroom policies (late assignments, absences, etc.) to all students
  • provide balanced views, especially to controversial issues
  • foster in-class participation from all students


Be trustworthy and honest. Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

  • follow through on legitimate requests from students
  • promptly return graded assessments (tests, papers, and projects) to students
  • honor the course syllabus and schedule in teaching your course
  • each time you meet, begin and end class on time
  • be reasonably accessible to students
  • keep scheduled appointments with students