Disruptive classroom behaviour

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Students can become disruptive in the classroom, and you must address these issues. By ignoring them you can reinforce that bad behaviour, as students will think it does not matter, and such behaviour is always disruptive of a class. These tips offer ways in which you can deal with these behaviours:

  • You should always be aware of any School/Department policy on latecomers and apply this. If such a policy doesn’t exist, make your views on this clear to students and explain how you will treat latecomers. They could be denied access to the room after a certain time, they could be asked to apologise and explain their lateness, they could miss out on materials or input provided at the start (you must be clear that in this case it is their responsibility to get the material from their colleagues, not from you).
  • Do not fall into the trap of offering each latecomer a summary of what has been covered so far. This wastes time and can become very irritating for the rest of the class. It is for the latecomer to find out what they missed.
  • Always be early and start the class on time. If you are late and wait for latecomers they will arrive even later. You should be a good model for them.
  • Other disruptive behaviour (e.g. inappropriate talking, use of mobile phones and text messaging) should also be dealt with. Usually it is sufficient to ask students politely to stop what they are doing and to explain that this is disrupting the learning of the rest of the class. You will find that most of the class will welcome this approach.
  • Students may be becoming restless because they have been sitting in a passive mode for too long, introduce a student-centred activity for a few minutes.
  • If poor behaviour continues, take a coffee break (if practical) and speak to the students concerned individually and quietly. Alternatively talk to them at the end of the session. Ask them why they are behaving in this way and reinforce the need for them to develop a professional approach which is expected of university level students. Remind them that learning is a partnership and they have obligations to work towards this.
  • If the problems continue, consult a more senior member of staff.
  • It is helpful to pre-empt poor behaviour by laying down “ground rules” at the start of the module explaining what standard of behaviour you expect. You can ask the students to develop their view of what these “rules” should be, and then remind them of these during the course of the module.

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