Disruptive behavior is a major learning inhibitor in college classrooms. How to recognize it and how to deal with it are challenges college faculty encounter on a daily basis.
Disruptive behavior in the classroom includes but is not limited to:
- Challenging the instructor's authority in class.
- Inappropriate, disrespectful or uncivil responses to the comments or opinions of others in the classroom.
- Threats/challenges to do physical harm (even when stated in a joking manner).
- Intimidating or bullying behavior.
- Use of obscene or profane language.
- Excessive talking.
- Late arrival or early departure from class without permission.
- Use of personal electronic devices such as cell phones, pagers, or PDAs.
- Coming to class under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance.
- Bringing individuals to class who are not enrolled, including infants or children.
- Improper use of equipment, materials, or resources.
- In appropriate conduct while on field assignments.
Preventing Disruptive Classroom Behavior
Some disruptive behavior may be averted by setting clear expectations for classroom behavior from the first day of class.
- Include information about behavior expectations in the syllabus.
- Review behavior expectations on the first day of classes.
- Personally model the behaviors you expect of students.
Addressing Disruptive Behavior
- When disruptive behavior becomes evident, remind the entire class to follow the applicable standard. If the disruption involves a behavior that has not been previously addressed, take the time to communicate your expectations.
- If the student exhibits a pattern of behavior or a single incident of what you believe to be serious misconduct, ask the student to stay after class or schedule a meeting. If a meeting cannot be schedule prior to the next class session, communicate by phone, email, or letter.
- During the meeting, discuss behavior, clarify expectations, ask for cooperation in adhering to class standards and state the consequences of failing to do so.
- Make a record of any meeting to discuss disruptive behavior. If the meeting concerned a serious incident, send a letter to the student summarizing the conversation.
You may find it helpful to involve other faculty or staff to reinforce the importance of your standards, add other perspectives, and help keep the conversation focused on behaviors rather than personalities. Contact your department head, supervisor, or the Dean of Students Office for support in your dealings with disruptive students.