Disruptive Student Behavior

UWM’s policy SAAP 1-5 on Behavior Cases Impeding Learning Process addresses the shared responsibility of instructors and students for a positive educational environment. Graduate Assistants sometimes encounter disruptive behavior by undergraduate students in classrooms, labs, or even university offices.

Disruptive behavior involves serious impairment or obstruction of the teaching and learning process. It usually involves behavior that makes it difficult for normal learning to continue. Examples include speaking persistently in a class without being recognized, repeatedly interrupting others, exhibiting verbal or other behaviors that distract the class from the subject matter, making physical threats, harassing behavior, delivering personal insults, and refusing to comply with reasonable faculty direction. The link above to SAAP 1-5 has guidelines for addressing a wide range of disruptive behaviors.

The line between disruptive behavior and some other kinds of behavior can be hard to determine. SAAP 1-5 also defines other kinds of behavior that are less serious than disruptive behavior, such as dissent, incivility, or eccentricity. These behaviors can usually be addressed effectively through conventional classroom management techniques that include addressing behavior expectations in the syllabus and during the first class period, in-class intervention, and speaking to a student after class and close to the time to when the behavior occurred. The link above to SAAP 1-5 has guidelines for de-escalating inappropriate behavior.

Graduate Assistants who encounter disruptive behavior in the classroom should generally consult their supervisors about the most appropriate way to proceed.

Previous Topic

Managing Conflict