Addressing Disruptive Classroom Behavior:
A Guide for Instructors
Occasionally instructors may have a student who exhibits disruptive behavior in the classroom. Disruptive behavior may include but is not limited to: yelling, being overly argumentative, and using inappropriate language. The following guidelines are intended to assist instructors in dealing with these situations.
As defined by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Student Code of Conduct, behavior that is a “disruption, obstruction or interruption of teaching, research, administration, conduct procedures or other University activities, including its public service functions, or other authorized University activities” is a violation of the student code of conduct.
The level of risk to individual community members determines the course of action taken. The Dean of Students Office (425-4260) supports faculty and staff by providing consultation regarding student behavioral issues. This consultation may lead to referral to counseling services, the initiation of a Student Code of Conduct investigation or police intervention.
Instructors should set standards for classroom behavior early in the course and implement them for all students, in accordance with principles of academic freedom. Please take the time to review the Student Code of Conduct and disciplinary procedures on line.
Minimally Disruptive Behavior
In cases where police action is not appropriate and the behavior is minimally disruptive, the Dean of Students Office suggests that the staff or faculty member talk with the student immediately upon observing any behavior that is disruptive.
The purpose of the discussion between the faculty member and the student is to review the disruptive behavior and its impact on the learning environment. This discussion should include behavioral expectations, how to correct the behavior, and future consequences should the behavior persist.
Examples of minimally disruptive behaviors in the classroom include being late to class, cell phones use during class, excessive talking and reading the newspaper.
Significant Disruptive Behavior
There are times when behavior is so disruptive that an immediate referral to the Dean of Students Office is appropriate, such as continuous interruptions during a single time period. In such cases, the staff or faculty member should immediately contact the Dean of Students Office and submit a written complaint summarizing the incident.
Explicit or Implicit Threats
When the student indicates an explicit or implicit threat to members of the university community and/or their families, the Dean of Students Office urges that the threat be immediately reported to Campus Police (425-4357) after removing oneself directly from the situation. An explicit or implicit threat could sound something like the following:
- "I am going to kill Professor Doe"
- "Mr. Doe should be careful when he sees me around campus"
An implicit threat may also include behaviors that make one feel uncomfortable, like invading another’s personal space or using techniques of behavioral intimidation, such as yelling and using aggressive arm movements.