Dealing with Disruptive Students: Fostering Classroom Civility
- Office of Student Development and Counseling Services: Willing to discuss issues with instructors before they become problems.
- Campus Police: If the student is a threat to themselves or others
- Need training to see value in unfamiliar educational strategies. (AKA “you didn’t tell me the right answer in class, how can you expect me to know it?”)
- Need guidance to accept nonwhite, non-male faculty as just as qualified and as authoritative.
Types of Disruptive Behavior
- List specific behavioral expectations in syllabus, but with a positive spin “Students are expected to turn in homework on time" vs. "Late homework will not be accepted."
- Adjust your stage presence.
- Be polite
- Speak with rather than at students
- Refer to your own research or experiences whenever appropriate
- Extend verbal respect to students, use last names or ask what they would prefer to be called
- Walk around the class
- Use broad gestures
- Speak to the back row
- Ask for input from students
- Do not end declarative sentences with a questioning rise in vocal pitch
- Have students identify what they consider inappropriate behaviors as a group
- Claim your territory.
- Dress professionally
- Speak in a clear low voice
- Maintain social space
- Have students address you as professor, instructor, or Doctor
- Empower students to police their peers through peer pressure.
- Act, do not react
- Do not allow a student to goad you into losing your cool.
- Act quickly
- The longer you allow a behavior to continue, the harder it will be to change the behavior
- Follow up outside of class
- Provide privacy from other students but not other faculty/staff
- Allow enough time for emotions to cool on both sides
- Be personal in confronting a student but do not take it personally
- Do not accept further abuse
In class strategies to try
- Insert quiet pauses and make eye contact with the student
- Decrease physical distance from student
- Model polite behavior
- Reiterate syllabus requirements in regard to behavior
- Adapt classroom to minimize disruption
- Incorporate small group work, like problem based learning tasks
- Answer leading or questions with guiding questions. Deflect hidden agendas.
Reframe Uncivil Behavior
- Focus on positive parts
- Even negative statements indicate interest in material
Recourse: Recourses are available to you as faculty (Use only if nothing else works):
- You can ask them to leave for a class period but you cannot ban them from the class.
- If they do not leave after you have dismissed them, call university police. Then, either take a ten minute break or move the class to another room.