Managing Student Behavior in Academic Settings

GW's statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities charges the faculty with the "primary responsibility for managing the learning environment." To uphold this important commitment, we recommend:

Establish high and positive behavioral expectations.

Instructions should adjust for specific settings. As an example,

We all contribute to an effective learning environment, including an equitable and engaged exchange of ideas.  I expect you will contribute to those goals in ways like providing your perspective on the course topics, sharing discussion time, listening when others are speaking, avoiding use of electronic devices not related to class, and minimizing disruptions to the learning environment (e.g. coming and going).  If disruptions occur, I will communicate to the disruptive person balancing respect for privacy with addressing the behavior to preserve the learning environment.  If disruptions continue or are severe, I may direct the disruptive person to leave the current meeting, after which I will follow-up individually.

In order to promote a learning environment in which all of us can share questions and ideas in good faith, all participants (including instructors) are prohibited from making recordings (including screen capture) and sharing them publicly.  This is not to prohibit anyone (students or instructors) from documenting behavior of concern (e.g., discrimination, harassment, etc) to share with appropriate University officials.

This provides a clear articulation of the end goal (“an effective learning environment”), specific but not limited ideas regarding how everyone can contribute (“sharing the time for discussion”), and specific responses to address those who do not meet these expectations (“I will communicate to the disruptive student”). 

Reiterate/adjust and communicate those high and positive expectations.

Don’t wait to intervene. When you do, you may need to do so in front of other students to preserve the immediate learning environment.  The most effective intervention recalls the expectations or communicates them clearly.  For example you might say, George, I understand this is an exciting topic. We should all support an effective learning environment.  I’m reminding you to listen while others are speaking.

In the rare event such behavior becomes a pattern, it’s helpful (although not essential) to have documented the early interventions.  An effective way to do this is an email to the student following the incident.  For example,

Dear George—I’m glad you were enthusiastic in today’s class.  I appreciated that after I reminded you to share the discussion time, you yielded to others while still participating.  I look forward to your continued contributions to our learning environment.

Outline next steps and document the disruption.

This is important for managing the current disruption and a potential pattern.  This may create disruption; you should weigh the long-term preservation of the learning environment.  Useful language could be follows:

George, I asked you not to interrupt others.  If that continues, I will direct you to leave.  [If George refuses to leave]  Since you continued to be disruptive, I need you to leave.  I will follow-up later.  [If George still refuses to leave] George, I am calling GWPD and requesting they remove you from this classroom.

The Statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities states that, “Students who engage . . . disruption of a class may be directed by the instructor to leave the class for the remainder of the class period.”  Longer removal requires due process with appropriate university resources.

If you remove a student, document that through the most appropriate resource.