Incivility In THe Classroom

  1. Practice effective communication skills.  This means using civil language, maintaining an inclusive attitude, respectfully listening to students, and serving as a role model for respect and understanding. Mutual courtesy will go a long way.
  2. Speak with them rather than at them.
  3. Learn their names – all of them. 
  4. In a clear and respectful manner, spell out academic and behavioral expectations in the syllabus.  Be specific about expectations and address logistics such as course objectives, evaluation methods, exam and attendance policies, course schedule, and consequences that will arise from acts of incivility. Uncertainty about course policies will lead to uncivil behavior.
  5. Stick to the syllabus.  Changing objectives during the course can lead to student anxiety, and thus incivility. 
  6. Distribute mid-term evaluations to receive early feedback.  
  7. Foster a collaborative, rather than competitive, learning environment.
  8. Practice prosocial behavior rather than antisocial behavior.  Prosocial behavior involves being warm and motivational, showing an interest in the students, and maintaining a positive attitude.  Antisocial behavior involves being aloof and disinterested.
  9. Reframe potential conflict.  Students often seek attention in different ways and it is best not to personalize ill-mannered student responses.  Your best defense is to respond non-defensively.  Acknowledge their disappointment, listen respectfully to their complaint, and then respond productively.  
  10. If necessary, confer with the student in a one-to-one setting.  Calmly tell the student what you see as the problem and then listen reflectively to their perspective.
  11. Ask them questions such as why are they taking the class – some oppositional students are simply in need of attention, while others are simply uncertain of the class or the professor’s expectations. Asking them questions may generate answers regarding their hostile behavior.
  12. Talk with colleagues about situations they have faced and ask them how they handled it. Every instructor has experienced uncivil student behavior.
  13. Integrate conflict-resolution activities into your lessons.  If the students learn about communication and interactive listening, they may be better able to apply it themselves.  
  14. Facilitate learning activities that teach social skills and self-insight.  For example, journal writing, role playing, and other self-awareness activities force students to reflect on both their behavior and the behavior of others.
  15. Deal with conflictual behavior as it comes up – talk about it directly in the classroom and help the students to see what respectful conduct is and is not.
  16. Remember to always practice immediacy.  Immediacy involves the following:
  • Arriving to class early and/or staying late (to allow time for informal chats with students).
  • Utilizing body language that indicates approachability, including forward leans and open body postures, direct eye contact, and walking around while lecturing or listening.
  • Making sure to pause, slow, and check student note-taking – be sure they are involved and comprehending.
  • Listening patiently and reflectively to students – both in class and out of class.
  • Avoiding signs of impatience or annoyance when talking to students.
  • Constructing a clear syllabus that lays out behavioral and academic expectations (and sticking to it!).

Reducing Incivility in the Classroom
Faculty Development Day
August 23, 2016
Lindsey Lupo