Addressing Disruptive Student Behavior

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Occasionally, faculty and staff may encounter individuals who create a disruption in their classes or work environment.  This webpage offers assistance in implementing an intervention process that addresses the disruptive behavior and maintains a successful academic environment.  Dean of Students Office staff can help you assess and deal constructively with disruptive individuals.

The UAA Student Code of Conduct (the Code) details standards of behavior and a disciplinary process that applies to all UAA students. The Code is a valuable tool to assist you in identifying and addressing disruptive behaviors.

Moose stands in the snow-covered bushes

Recommended steps for faculty and staff

As soon as it is evident that a student’s behavior is disruptive, address it with the student. Be specific in describing the disruptive behavior and offer alternative methods of dealing with the cause of the behavior. If the student understands your concerns and demonstrates an appropriate change of behavior, acknowledge it. It is usually enough to call the student’s attention to the disruptive behavior. Document the behavior and the subsequent meeting for your own records.

If the disruptive behavior continues, you may wish to consult with a colleague, supervisor, department chair, or the Dean of Students Office. Repeated disruptive behavior must be met with clear limit setting, consequences for continued disruptive behavior and a more formalized approach. You may also request formal intervention from Dean of Students Office staff members who are prepared to assist you to:

  • Define the disruptive behavior.
  • Design strategies to use during class time to set behavior limits to facilitate the desired change.
  • Determine when the time is right for a student/teacher conference to address the behavioral issue.
  • Facilitate the student/teacher conference.
  • Determine how to confront the student and still maintain a professional posture.
  • Determine how and when to remove a student from class until the disruptive behavior is addressed by the Dean of Students Office.

Dean of Students Office staff members are available to help you with disruptive students. The sooner such behaviors are addressed, the greater the likelihood that the solution will be "win-win" for the student, the faculty member and the University.


Emergency Contact

University Police Department: 907-786-1120 V/TTY 24 hours availability

Support Services

Dean of Students Office: 907-786-1214 V/TTY

The Dean of Students may be contacted outside of these hours through the University Police in emergency situations.

Examples of Disruptive Behavior and Appropriate Responses

Behavior Example Faculty Response Example Hints

Naive disruption: Talking, passing notes, distractive behaviors (i.e. fidgeting, muttering to self/neighbor, noise making)

Instructional directive: Clear, concise, with expectation for termination of the behavior. Constructive, non-belittling comments.
Clarify expectations: "Cell phones are to be turned off during class."

“It is time to stop____.”
“We need to move on now.”
“That is inappropriate.”
“That is disruptive.”

  •  look for behavior reinforcements (i.e., friends) and precipitating factors
  • frame the behavior in terms of the Student Code of Conduct
  • cite the Code of Conduct in course syllabus
  • make notes of events, behaviors, directives

Intentional disruption: Continuing behavior despite directives, persistent questions, arguing, attention getting comments, defensive comments

Issue directive: State consequences, verbal or written. If necessary to re-issue directive, begin setting limits.
Meet with student: during break, after class, or office hours
Document: note behavior, conversation, directives, date and times

“Your line of questioning is off-topic. Please refrain from asking further questions.”
“Your side comments are disruptive. I expect you to listen to the discussion and not be disruptive.”
“Please speak with me after class.”
“I know you want to do the right thing.”

 
  • use Student Code of Conduct as reference
  • identify behavior, impact on class/lecture/students
  • state consequences, referral to Dean’s office temporary restriction from attending class
  • student/professor conference with possible third person, meeting in open space, notify colleague of meeting
  • student’s reaction will tell you a lot!

Challenging behaviors: Questioning your position, a test, “unreasonable” expectations,
your credentials, grading policy

Set and enforce limits: stay on topic, don't get pulled into the fray, give immediate & specific directive with consequence
Meet with student: during break, after class, or office hours
Document: note behavior, conversations, directives, dates and times
Get help: colleague, department chair, Dean, Dean of Students office

“Your line of questioning is off-topic. Please refrain from asking further questions.”
“Your side comments are disruptive. I expect you to listen to the discussion and not be disruptive.”
“Please speak with me after class.”
“I know you want to do the right thing.”

  • watch for when the content of the challenge changes from ______, to you!

Refusal: Student will not stop the behavior, student unwilling/unable to follow directive, student says “NO”

Set and enforce limits: immediate and specific directive with consequences
Initiate class break: during break, inform the student they must leave class and may not return until they meet with you, you and your colleague, or the Dean of Students.
Document: After the situation is under control, document and notify the Dean of Students Office of the incident.

“Doing ____ during class is continuing to be disruptive. I asked you to stop ____ and you refused. Therefore, you may not attend this class anymore until you meet with the Dean of Students and receive permission."

  • have a plan in mind before you need one
  • know where the telephones are near your classroom

Intimidation and/or threats: "You best watch out, I know what your car looks like." or "If you know what's best for you, you will give me an 'A'."

Get help: get away from student, get another faculty or staff person to escort you to safety
Document: after the situation is under control, document and notify the Dean of Students Office of the incident.
Notify University Police: Call 911 or 907-786-1120