What's On the Agenda?

By Heather Landers

Human beings like knowing what to expect and, when faced with uncertainty, use both active and passive communication strategies to gain more information about the situation before deciding how to act (Berger & Calabrese, 1975).

One way that uncertainty is reduced in the college classroom is through the syllabus, which acts as a guide for the classroom rules, expectations, and workload for the semester. Another is to clearly communicate, each time the class meets, what your students should expect that day.

Writing an agenda on the board will show your students the intended flow of the class, priming them in advance for what is to come. This allows them a few minutes to mentally access the prior subject knowledge needed in order to follow your lecture. In addition, your students will be more likely to participate in class discussions and other small group activities if—because it was written on the board—they know in advance that it is expected.

Having a clear agenda, written on the board, helps identify the big-picture points covered in each class period. Having this agenda available everyday reminds your students of where they’ve been and where they’re going next.  Both you and your students can also use it as a reference regarding things that were supposed to have been covered previously but, for one reason or another, were not.

Lastly, with your agenda on the board, students who want clarification, particularly about anything from an assigned reading or outside activity, are able to see whether or not that specific topic is going to be covered. If it is, they can relax, knowing that it’s coming up; if not, they will at least know that clarification will need to be sought after class or during your office hours.


Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. J. (1975). Some exploration in initial interaction and beyond: Toward a developmental theory of communication. Human Communication Research, 1, 99–112.


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