Throughout the course of a teaching career, most teachers encounter at least one disruptive student. Disruptive behaviour can very quickly throw a class discussion completely off-track and it can also serve to encourage other disruptive students if not handled correctly. Many faculties of education such as those at Illinois State University, Indiana University and the University of Missouri at St. Louis, recommend taking the same actions to deal with disruptive behaviour in a classroom.
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Draw up a list of normative behaviours that you expect students to exhibit in the classroom. Include that list in your class syllabus and discuss it with the students on the first day of class.
Ask the students what other behaviours they would add to the list and include their ideas in your course planning.
Observe any students that exhibiting disruptive behaviours. The kinds of behaviours they exhibit and the things that they say may give you clues into why they are disruptive in class. Once you have an idea of what is causing the disruption, you may be able to do something about it.
Request that the student cease disruptive behaviour. When doing so, remain calm and speak politely. Remind the student of the classroom rules that the classroom agreed upon on day one.
Request to meet with the student outside of class. Explain your concerns to the student and listen to the answers.
Expel the disruptive student from the classroom for the rest of that class period if the disruption continues. Do not immediately attempt to expel a student for an entire term; according to Kathleen McKinney of Illinois State University's teaching faculty, this kind of expulsion requires a due process for the student that should be explained in the school's community handbook.
Exhibit the behaviours that you wish to see in your students. If you requested, for example, that students not curse in class, then you should not, either -- no matter what any student says or does.
Tips and warnings
- If a student makes threats or exhibits violent behaviour such as attacking another student, dispense with formality and immediately call the school's security. The school will have a legal procedure for dealing with this sort of disciplinary issue.
- Do not lose your temper with a student, in front of the class or in private. Exhibiting such behaviour yourself will not inspire a student to emulate the example that you set.
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- Illinois State University: Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology: Dealing with Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom
- Indiana University: Guidelines for Dealing with Disruptive Students in Academic Settings
- University of Missouri at St. Louis: Counseling Services: Tips for Dealing with Disruptive Students