Summery of Students Behavior in Classroom

1.              A Civility in the Classroom

     Some of the social goals of the college experience are the building of social relationships, enhancing the art of communication, and developing respect for other people; all of these skills are developed to some degree in the classroom.  These are important factors for success in the world of work, family, and community, as well as emotional and mental health and well-being.
  Civility in the classroom is necessary for optimal learning.  “Students who frequently observe classroom incivilities may spend less energy thinking critically during the class and be less engaged with the course material afterward”

2.              Civility issues
  Civility must matter to students if it is to be made important in the classroom.  Perlmutter emphasizes that "… offering practical reasons for being civil is not enough.  We have to win students' hearts as well as their minds".
Civility issues have also been said to arise from the mindset of "student-as-customer" that is common in the business of higher education today.  In this frame, students are the paying customer and their right to act in ways that might be considered uncivil (but not harmful to others) is more important than the professors' right to discipline.  All of these factors have some degree of irrationality and some degree of truth and will be discussed further.

3.              Faculty behaviors

     Student incivilities are not the only behavioral issues that disrupt learning; faculty behaviors have a direct effect on student learning as well. faculty behavior affects one's teaching performance and classroom environment and student learning," while "deviant student behavior affects faculty member's classroom performance and other students' learning opportunities". Braxton and Bayer highlight the reciprocal effect that faculty and student misconduct have on one another and how this impacts faculty and student performance.  In this reciprocal process, respect, courtesy, and appropriate behavior runs in the directions of the relationships of student to faculty, faculty to student, and student to student.  Incivility has been defined as "the intentional behavior of students to disrupt and interfere with the teaching and learning process of others".

4.              Arise the behaviors

     Another area in which problem behaviors can arise involves team projects, a popular teaching concept in today's college classroom.  “Using teams in the classroom allows students to develop skills in leadership, communication, negotiation, and decision-making”. To make team projects as meaningful as possible, it is important to understand which behaviors can cause disruptions.
  The most common complaints arising out of team projects is the teammate who does not complete his or her share of the work or who does their share poorly.  As with other academic expectations, setting clear standards for behavior and participation for team projects and enforcing these promptly will eliminate many problems.

5.   Survey of Observed Classroom Behavior

Survey of Observed Classroom Behavior at the University of Arkansas
     The purpose of the survey on classroom behavior is to establish classroom environments that enhance student learning and to identify behaviors that inhibit student learning.  To gauge the types of disruptive behaviors and the intensity of their effects on peers and professors at the University of Arkansas, surveys were developed that reflected observed behaviors from three perspectives: student to student, faculty to student, and student to faculty.  The research findings shared the classroom behaviors perceived as most disruptive within the university community based on survey results.  A pre-packaged presentation will be developed to assist faculty with establishing classroom standards of behavior at the beginning of each semester


A survey research tool was developed with the assistance of the Survey Research Center.  The Survey Research Center developed the survey for distribution online and collected and analyzed the results. 
1.                This first survey addressed fourteen observed behaviors of students by fellow students as well as observed behaviors of faculty by students.
2.                A second survey was distributed to all faculty to obtain information on observed uncivil behaviors of students in the classroom.
The behavior most commonly indicated as very disruptive to both faculty and students was verbally abusive or disrespectful comments students make toward themselves or others, as well as vulgar or insulting language or gestures.  A significant portion of students found lack of personal hygiene very disruptive.  Chatting, whispering, or talking in class was indicated as moderately disruptive to an average number of both students and faculty.

6.              Student Incivility Issues

        The following is a list of some commonly observed student behaviors perceived as disruptive or uncivil:
·         Limited attendance, tardiness, and leaving class early
·         Participation (too much or too little)
·         Eating in class
·         Cell phone and pager use
·         Inappropriate computer use
·         Disrespectful interactions (with professor or other students)
·         Interrupting the professor or other students
·         Chatting among students
·         Reading newspapers or non-class material
·         Sleeping in class
·         Derogatory comments toward other students related to race or culture;    vulgar language or gestures
·        Preparing for the end of class before the professor is finished.

7.              Faculty Incivility Issues

  Students who misbehave create a chaotic environment; faculty who do not have standards for acceptable civil behavior or who do not take immediate and consistent action to enforce set standards contribute to the chaos.
Braxton and Bayer cite seven "inviolable norms" that students may observe regarding faculty behavior, including "condescending negativism, inattentive planning, moral turpitude, particularistic grading, personal disregard, uncommunicated course details, and uncooperative cynicism".
     Morrissette suggests "uncivil student conduct in the college/university classroom can be reduced and/or eliminated when faculty assume a proactive stance, reflect on their contributions to hostile interactions, and employ practical prevention strategies".  In addition, there are certain expectations that students rightfully have of professors and the classroom experience.  These include:
·         Clear expectations from the first day of class
·         A commitment to stick to the syllabus and schedule as much as possible
·         A respectful, caring attitude toward students
·         Staying on task, being organized, and knowing how to use equipment in the classroom
·         Knowing the subject material and keeping up-to-date on changes or new material
·         Making subject presentation interesting and as interactive as possible
·         Understanding diversity issues (knowing the students and their cultural differences)
·         Providing reliable contact information and being conscientious about maintaining availability at the times indicated
·         Being reasonably prompt in responding to student e-mails or phone calls (letting students know what reasonably prompt means)
·         Encouraging students to give feedback on what is working well and what is not (during the course rather than just at the end).

Several comments

Several comments, both by students and faculty, indicated that “disruptive” did not accurately represent their feelings on the behaviors outlined.
   Students rated the following faculty behavior regarding preparation and classroom        environment as very important: explain assignments and expectations clearly, teach using appropriate and current knowledge of subject matter, be approachable and open to receiving questions and concerns, be prepared for class, be respectful toward students, strive to make learning innovative and interesting, maintain a classroom environment conducive to learning, provide reliable contact information and responses, and provide prompt feedback on work completed.  Students indicated that an absence of these behaviors and actions did or could lead to an increase in disruptive behavior due to boredom.

Female faculty

Female faculty identified several behaviors as mildly more disruptive than male faculty; these included students chatting, whispering and/or talking in class, one or more students dominating classroom discussions, reading newspapers or magazines or sleeping during class, preparing to leave and leaving or interrupting before class is over and, disruptive behaviors affecting the teaching experience.  Male faculty identified eating in class as mildly more disruptive than perceived by female faculty.
Demographic factors

Other demographic factors such as students’ race or gender, class size, number of hours students worked per week, and class load for students and faculty showed no statistically significant relevance in relation to disruptive behaviors.  Again, this survey only addressed descriptive data and not frequency of behaviors.

Recommendations to Address Classroom Incivility

 Several approaches may be taken to decrease incivility in the classroom.
  • One effective and innovative step toward the reduction of classroom incivility is to hold frank discussions regarding civility issues with students and faculty.
  • Engaging students and faculty in conversations regarding the "why" of civility can help to lead to a buy-in of civil behavior.
This gives a chance for all perspectives to be heard, for topics of disagreement to be discussed, and for students to have the opportunity to participate in the reasoning and consensus process.
  Faculty may help this process by following several suggestions for effective student/faculty communication: model the use of civil language and behavior; acknowledge cultural differences and practice empathy; teach the "language of disagreement" (such as respectful listening and the avoidance of negative or threatening language); and engage students in the discussion of uncivil behaviors and collaborate with them to develop solutions. 
     Before writing up a syllabus or contract that includes behavioral expectations, professors must determine what is of personal importance regarding civil behavior.  It is not helpful, nor will it likely be effective, to set expectations on behavior without relevant rationale.  Explain to students why certain behaviors are not acceptable to the professor and to students.
Large classes present unique civility issues and solutions.  Students may feel that their attendance is unimportant or less important in large classes but studies repeatedly show that attendance is a good predictor of grades. Several suggestions might be helpful for problem behavior in large classes. One would be to make attendance count as part of the final grade. This can be achieved by having students sign in with their name and another individual identifying factor or using material outside of the text or from guest speakers on tests. 
     Because large classes are primarily lecture oriented, it can be challenging to keep students’ attention.  Students indicate that certain faculty behaviors increase the likelihood of keeping attention.  These include: moving around the classroom, asking questions, providing anecdotal material that has personal relevance for students, having a sense of humor, and making the learning as interactive as possible . It can be helpful and informative to invite students to give feedback two or three times during the semester (this could be an attendance taker as well). 
     In large classes, it is tempting to ignore behavioral problems because of the sheer number of students and the amount of time it could take to address them.  The trade-off in ignoring these behaviors is that the professor is penalizing students who truly want to learn, as well as indicating that behavior is not relevant and that students and the classroom environment are not respected .As outlined above, setting clear expectations for civil behavior in the first class, verbally and in writing, and addressing behavioral problems as soon as they arise, lets students know civil behavior is important and relevant, both in and out of class.   
     There are several ideas about why faculty avoid addressing or correcting uncivil behavior in the classroom.  These include:
·         Not feeling secure that their actions will be supported by superiors
·         Feeling guilty about disciplining students when they remember their own behavior in the classroom (this might be especially relevant for newer and younger professors or teaching assistants)
·         Observing apathy among colleagues in this area
·         Feeling embarrassed about not being able to control a class or a student
·         Believing it takes time away from teaching
·         Fear of losing control in front of students or with a student
·         Believing students should know how to behave by the time they get to college

     Student learning may be impaired in an environment that is interrupted by uncivil or disruptive behavior.  Both faculty and students suffer consequences when this behavior is left unchecked.  The University of Arkansas survey results indicate that the behaviors most commonly perceived as disruptive include verbally abusive or disrespectful comments students make toward themselves or others, as well as vulgar or insulting language or gestures.  These behaviors are not acceptable in the classroom and would not be acceptable in the workplace as well.                                                                                                     
     Faculty have the ability and responsibility to set clear expectations for civil student behavior in the classroom as well as consequences for disruptive behavior, along with   ensuring courses are interesting and engaging.  Students have the responsibility to treat faculty and each other with respect and dignity and the right to be protected from uncivil behavior in the classroom.  Proactive planning in form of written and oral communication on the first day of class, along with an interactive discussion about the reasons for classroom civility, will establish the class culture from the beginning.  Prompt attention in addressing civility issues will indicate the importance of creating a safe and productive learning environment.  Civility, both inside and outside the classroom, should be an important standard as college students move through the education experience and prepare to enter the workforce and new social environments.