Lecture Etiquette

LectureLecture Etiquette

Start with a little respect for the lecturer and your classmates and move on from there.

When you first get to college-level course, one of the major differences you’ll notice is class size and structure. Many courses employ lectures occasionally or often. Such is true of your IB History class.

During lectures, little time will be spent on direct questions and there will be almost no one-on-one interaction. You’ll get to those things in your discussion sections – which are smaller groups that meet during Phase 2 sessions that aren’t lecture-based. (You have seen these by now.)

You might find yourself wondering what constitutes appropriate behavior in these large-class settings. Use these tips on lecture etiquette to ensure that you participate in a respectable manner in all your classes.


It is perfectly acceptable to use a laptop for note-taking in class. You’ll want to be sure to mute your computer – those little beeps can be very distracting for your classmates. Refrain from general Web browsing, checking email, chatting and interacting on social networks. While this should mainly be done out of respect for the lecturer (he or she is up in front of the class trying to teach you something), bottom line, if you spend your time in class online, you aren’t learning the course material.

Cell Phones/MP3 Players

Any electronic device other than a laptop should be turned off, or at least turned on silent. If you fail to do so and your device goes off, your lecturer may stop the lecture to point you out, or take other disciplinary action. Save yourself the embarrassment by double-checking before class begins.

Food and Beverages

You can have a beverage with you, but refrain from eating during the lecture. Chewing and fumbling with wrappers and packaging not only distracts you and other students, it may be visually off-putting as well. You are allowed to eat on non-lecture days, but make sure you are well-fed before lectures when they are scheduled.

Questions (Important!) 

You should pose questions only when the lecturer asks you to do so. Lectures are devised to get as much information to as large an audience as possible. The lecturer does not have time to answer individual questions throughout the entire class and still get through the material. Write your questions down and save them for the small-group sessions or office hours. If the question is urgent, raise your hand first.

Attendance and Punctuality

If you have initial questions or issues you would like to discuss before the lecture, get there before the lecture. This includes any discussion of due dates, assignments or other bureaucratic matters. Never interrupt a lecture, or stall one, to discuss these matters. However, if you arrive to class early, the lecturer may be able to take questions on such matters or others she couldn’t answer during other classes.


You should already be familiar with the etiquette regarding basic lecture interaction: Don’t speak unless you are called upon or have permission from the lecturer. Expect to be identified and re-located if you are unable to maintain proper etiquette in this regard.

When You Miss Something

No adult human can remain perfectly focused on a single subject for 90 minutes. This is why lecturing is considered an art form. But no matter the skill and good intentions of the lecturer, or your dedication, you will lose focus or be distracted in another way at some point. What do you do?

  • Because you are taking notes on Evernote, you should have the recording function on. This way, you can always return to the missed section when you review and find what you you missed. You may use other apps for this purpose as well.
  • Make an arrangement before the lecture with 2 or more classmates to compensate for missed sections. Do not make this arrangement by talking during the lecture. Make the arrangement beforehand, and then when the lecture is over, ask your partners about the sections in question.
  • If it is a matter of spelling or definition–look it up yourself! Do not interrupt the lecture for basic data questions that Google is eager to tell you.
  • And, of course, you can always ask the lecturer about the sections in question after the lecture.

Remember, it will be difficult for the other students to hear the lecturer or follow the lecture if you are making noise or disrupting the talk. Treat your classmates and teachers with respect, and they’ll do the same for you.