Dealing with Classroom Disruption
Tips to address disruptive issues in the classroom (adapted from San Francisco State University):
The first step is to be proactive at the beginning of the academic semester. Set the stage for a positive classroom experience by:
- Stating reasonable and clear expectations in advance on the first day of instruction
- Defining conduct standards and discussing rules of etiquette in your syllabus; note
that classroom disruptions will not be tolerated and may be referred to the Office
of Student Conduct as a violation of the Policy on Disruptive Classroom Behavior.
- Giving examples of desired conduct as well as unacceptable behavior
- Explaining the reasons for your classroom expectations and inviting student comments
- Being a role model for expected behavior and keeping your relationship with students cordial and professional
How should I respond to disruptive behavior?
Address the behavior as soon as possible:
- If you believe inappropriate behavior is occurring, start by cautioning the whole
class rather than warning a particular student. A technique is to stop class, calmly
indicate the problem (e.g. side conversations, cell phones) and state that class cannot
continue until the behavior stops.
- Before resuming, enlist the support of others by reminding the class that the disruptive
behavior is taking away from class time and may result in some exam material not being
covered in class.
- Students also have academic freedom, so it is important to exercise authority with
compassion and self-restraint. It is best to correct innocent mistakes and minor first
offenses gently, without ridiculing students’ remarks.
- If it becomes necessary to speak to an individual student about disruptive behavior,
do so after class in a discreet manner (see tips below). If the situation requires
an immediate response in class, calmly and courteously ask the student to stop the
conduct and to talk to you after class or during office hours.
- You may want to inform the class that students may be disciplined for disrupting class,
and to reiterate that message if you talk with an individual student outside class
because of his or her behavior. Remind the student that continued disruption may result
in removal from the class.
- A student should be asked to leave class if he or she engages in disruptive behavior that impedes your ability to teach the class productively. You may contact the University Police if the student refuses to leave. If this happens, immediately contact your department chair, the Dean of the College, and the Office of Student Conduct.
Having a discussion with a disruptive student.
Addressing the need for civility in the classroom is an important, albeit, sometimes difficult conversation to have with a student. Here are some tips for discussing the disruptive issue with your student:
- Clearly describe the behavior and its impact on the class
- Ask the student to respond and listen carefully to the student's response. Often,
providing an opportunity for a student to respond will resolve the matter
- Discuss your expectation for what is appropriate behavior in the classroom
- Ask the student if they understand your expectations for future behavior
- Share with your students what outcomes will occur should they disrupt the classroom
again, such as referring the matter to the Office of Student Conduct
- Summarize the conversation and expectations
- Keep a record of that conversation including the date of the meeting, what the disruption was, the student's response and note that you made them aware of the consequences of any subsequent disruption to your class
Referring a student to the Office of Student Conduct for disruptive behaviors.
Sometimes a disruptive student will continue their negative behavior in the classroom and it becomes necessary to report the matter to the Office of Student Conduct for further intervention. An Instructor should file a Report of Disruptive Incident to facilitate the reporting process.
The Office of Student Conduct will contact you should more information be needed regarding the incident.