Basic Principles

The "no surprises" rule need not imply a lack of flexibility. Careful phrasing allows instructors to indicate the general scope and nature of the course without limiting one's ability to respond to student interests, emergent circumstances, and unanticipated problems. For example, schedules should be described as "tentative" or "proposed" or "anticipated" to indicate that they are subject to change, though sufficiently representative that students may make a reasonable estimate of the extent and pacing of the work expected of them. Similarly, it is perfectly appropriate to incorporate surprises (pop quizzes, unfolding current events, newly available readings) as long as the course outline so indicates (e.g., "there will be between 4 and 8 pop quizzes based on course readings worth a total of 5% of the course grade"; or "additional readings will be distributed in class as they become available; students will be expected to read between 20 and 40 pages in addition to the text each week").