Course Policies & Practices

We encourage all faculty members to review the procedures for the conduct of courses, compiled by the Office of the Registrar and the Office of the Dean of the College. The faculty services page provides useful information regarding teaching and learning, grading and other policies.

Policies on Collaboration

It is up to you to set clear expectations regarding collaboration on any materials that will be graded in your course (e.g. take-home exams, papers, homework, problems sets or laboratory reports.) The standard for permissible collaboration varies from course to course. Some faculty members permit students to do problem sets together and even to turn in an assignment together; others allow students to discuss the problems but require them to write up their own answers; still others prohibit any collaboration at all on homework. Given the proliferation of technologies that enable students to share information quickly and easily, it is especially important that you set forth your expectations in writing as to what constitutes permissible collaboration on academic work in your course. For sample guidelines, see these course syllabus statements as well as this handout on guidelines for writing assignments. For the specific University policies, consult Academic Integrity, the Undergraduate Announcement and Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. 

Grading and Returning Graded Work

Course syllabi should clearly articulate a framework for grading student work that aligns with the rubrics established by the department, including clear and transparent descriptions of the course attendance policies and assignment deadlines. When returning graded work, all faculty should take explicit care to protect students’ confidentiality. Graded problem sets, exams, or other written work should never be returned in a public setting that would permit one student’s grades to be disclosed to others without their consent. Whenever possible, graded work should be returned to students directly by a professor or preceptor, or via the department’s office staff who may personally return graded work to students on an individual basis. Alternatively, graded work may be returned to students in sealed, private envelopes that do not permit students to view other classmates’ grades when searching for their own work, even accidentally or unintentionally. The Office of the General Counsel offers additional resource materials that explain how students’ educational records are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

Examination Cover Sheet

The Honor Committee has developed an informational cover sheet that faculty members can use with in-class examinations. The purpose is to have an easy and reliable way for a faculty member to make plain to students what written materials, if any, can be used during an examination, and to give students clear information about such details as the length of the examination and where they can find the course head or preceptor while the examination is in progress. Faculty members who choose to use the cover sheet should print out the form, complete it as appropriate for the examination in question, and have copies made on colored paper in the department or program office when the examination is printed.

Course Scheduling

As you think about scheduling the meeting time for your course, you might want to keep in mind that there is considerable congestion in the most popular time slots. A very large number of lectures are scheduled in the mornings and seminars are frequently scheduled in the afternoons. If you are looking to maximize possible enrollments in your course, you might consider picking a less congested time slot. Departments as a whole should try to take advantage of all available time blocks to minimize cross-scheduling and increase the options for their concentrators.

Pass/D/Fail Grading Option

The pass/D/fail grading option is designed to encourage students to explore the curriculum. The Office of the Dean of the College encourages faculty members to make the pass/D/fail option more widely available, particularly in introductory level courses or those used to fulfill the general education distribution requirements. Students may elect the pass/D/fail option in as many as four courses, but may only elect one per semester. Students may elect the pass/D/fail as early as the beginning of the 7th week of classes and must elect the pass/D/fail option by the end of the 9th week of classes. A P/D/F decision may be rescinded under very specific conditions, described on the Grading page.

Undergraduate Course Assistants

The University recognizes that, under appropriate circumstances, it can be beneficial for undergraduate students to assist faculty members with the grading of certain types of course work. Undergraduate Course Assistants (UCAs) can derive significant benefits from having this additional opportunity to work with faculty members, while the assistance of UCAs can allow faculty members to devote more time to their advising and teaching responsibilities and otherwise manage their courses more effectively. Before engaging an undergraduate course assistant, please review the University's policy and then contact Stephanie Brown for the standard terms and conditions.

Policies on Laptops in the Classroom

Each faculty member may set the policy for the use of laptops in their classroom. The McGraw Center has outlined the factors you may wish to consider setting a laptop policy.

Athletics and Class Attendance

As outlined in this letter, Princeton University has long been committed to maintaining a competitive varsity-athletics program as part of its broad conception of undergraduate education. In keeping with that commitment, Princeton reserves the 4:30-7:30 p.m. time slot for student participation in athletics and many other extracurricular activities. The University has a long-standing policy regarding conflicts that might arise between regularly scheduled classes and varsity-athletic competitions.

Our athletics department makes every effort to schedule competitions at times that do not conflict with our students’ academic commitments. Such conflicts are sometimes unavoidable, however, because of factors beyond our control.

In those cases, our policy is not to penalize students for missed class time. (Please note that students are not permitted to miss class to attend practices.)

Students are expected to meet with their instructors at the beginning of each term to identify any class meetings they are likely to miss because of their athletic competitions and to discuss how they plan to cover the assigned material. They might, for example, review other students’ class notes (if permitted); meet with their professors in office hours to discuss the material missed; or write a short essay on the assigned reading.

In short, while the University permits students to miss classes for sanctioned varsity-athletic competitions or related travel, these absences must not compromise a student’s ability to remain in good academic standing.

In some cases, student-athletes may request an instructor’s cooperation in rescheduling academic commitments for occasional athletic competitions that fall outside of the varsity-athletics category, such as national team and Olympic competitions. We encourage instructors to make allowances in such cases, although the decision about how to handle conflicts remains the instructor’s prerogative. Instructors can consult with residential college deans and directors of studies for further information.

Please note that the Registrar manages the rescheduling of all final examinations.

The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning has additional resources that might be helpful to accommodate student needs, including recording lectures, capturing class content, and facilitating remote participation. You can find additional details at here.

If you have any questions or concerns about the amount of class time that a student is missing due to varsity athletic competition, please contact the residential college deans and directors of studies, who will consult as needed with Dean Elizabeth Colagiuri, Princeton’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA, and with other colleagues in the athletics department.

Class Trips

Class trips and outings may not be scheduled during the 12-week teaching semester in a manner that creates class conflicts for students; students may not miss another class to participate in a class trip. Class trips and outings may be scheduled during fall or spring break but cannot be scheduled outside of the official semester (intersession, summer). If a class trip or outing is required, it should be listed in the official course description in Course Offerings and on the class syllabus. The cost of class trips must be covered for all students, and it is expected that those costs will be covered by department funds. Departments seeking additional funds to support class trips and outings, particularly in new or redesigned courses, may submit proposals to the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project or the 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education.

If you are planning a domestic or international class trip as part of your course, you should consult the travel website for important information on the policies, procedures and guidelines that govern University-sponsored travel. Please note that all University-sponsored undergraduate student overnight travel, with the exception of metropolitan New York City and Philadelphia, must be registered on the travel database. The University will not fund or sponsor undergraduate student travel to countries on the U.S. State Department Warning List or to countries where the United States has issued travel restrictions. International SOS is Princeton's on-the-ground support resource and the Smart Traveler Program provides information and notices for international travelers from the U.S. State Department. We encourage you to contact the Office of International Programs if you have any questions about group international travel.

Mid-Semester Course Feedback

More and more faculty members are finding mid-semester evaluations a valuable resource for their teaching. Unlike the evaluations completed at the conclusion of a course, gathering earlier feedback from students can enable faculty members to make adjustments that improve the quality of the experience for both instructors and students. If you are interested in ways to solicit feedback, visit the McGraw Center website.

Academic Early Alert Reporting System (formerly Student in Difficulty)

If an undergraduate student in your course receives a failing grade on their midterm or is otherwise experiencing difficulty, please use the Academic Early Alert system (login required) to submit an academic progress report to the student's residential college staff. A member of the advising staff will reach out to the student and offer appropriate support.

End-of-Semester Work: Reading Period, Dean’s Date and Exam Period

The three weeks following the 12-week class schedule is the period designated for undergraduates to complete final course assignments and assessments. (In the fall semester, this period begins after winter break; assignments should not be due during the break). This period is intended to provide an opportunity for reflection, writing and preparation for exams. Final written assignments should not be due before reading period, and may not be due after “dean’s date” (the second Tuesday of reading period), which is the University deadline for all written work. Extensions beyond dean’s date must be approved by the student’s residential college dean or director of studies as well as by the course instructor. All students requesting such an extension should be told to contact the appropriate residential college staff.

The final examination period begins the day after reading period. Exams are scheduled by the Office of the Registrar and can only be rescheduled by the Office of the Registrar. Exams are not proctored at Princeton, but there are very strict protocols regarding their administration. If students approach you about rescheduling an exam, please send them to the registrar. Any exam postponement in excess of 24 hours requires that a new exam be written.

Take-home examinations are an increasingly popular form of assessment. In order to allow students to pace their end-of-semester work appropriately, take-home finals cannot be due before final exam period begins (the day after dean’s date) and should be due no later than the sixth day of exam period. When designing a take-home exam and assigning deadlines, you should be aware that students are likely taking regularly scheduled finals during the same period. Students with a conflict between a take-home exam and an exam scheduled by the registrar should consult with their residential college dean or director of studies.

Course Evaluations

The online course evaluation system gives students the opportunity to provide constructive comments about their courses that will be useful to the course instructors and certain University administrators with responsibility for the overall quality of the curriculum and academic life at Princeton. To ensure the integrity of this process, student evaluations are anonymous (the system is designed so that the student's identity cannot be tracked). Faculty members and administrators are not able to view evaluation results, including comments, until after the evaluation period has ended and after their final grades have been submitted. Students are advised that their anonymous comments in response to the final question ("What advice would you give to another student considering taking this course?") will be made available on the Course Offerings website to other members of the University community for general consideration.