Managing Disruptive Student Behavior


Class disruption by students has been defined as including a range of behaviors that negatively affect the learning environment for students, impede teaching, and contribute to instructors’ stress. The following resources describe strategies for reducing and responding to disruptive student behavior. ​​​​​​​


  • Setting clear expectations regarding classroom behavior (e.g., incivility, tardiness, and unauthorized use of technology) at the beginning of the course, both verbally and in writing, and specifying consequences for disruptive behavior.
  • Developing a sense of community in the class by getting to know students (including their names) and giving them opportunities to get to know you (e.g., encouraging attendance at office hours or providing other opportunities for individual meetings).
  • Serving as a role model for respectful behavior (e.g., if you expect students to be on time, be sure you are on time; if you expect students to listen respectfully to other students’ views, be sure you do so as well).
  • Addressing disruptive behavior immediately and directly (but calmly and civilly) with the personal who committed it, either in class or immediately after.
  • Encouraging class members also to take responsibility for the class climate, which may include speaking up about disruptive behavior by classmates (calmly and civilly).
  • Involving students in the class by using active learning techniques that engage them and capture and keep their attention.

​​​​​​​One important way to prevent incivility in a class is to explicitly set expectations and norms in a classroom. Discussion or participation guidelines or ground rules offer one method for doing so. Here is one example Discussion Ground Rules

Helpful Resources

  • Best Practices for Managing Disruptive Behavior
    ​​​​​​​University of Washington Office of VP for Student life has prepared a list of best practices for handling disruption classroom behavior that include very specific suggestions for both prevention and intervention.
  • Addressing Students’ Needs: Dealing with Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom
    Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching has published a compilation of guidelines from faculty at several universities with recommendations for dealing with disruptive behavior in the classroom.
  • Handling Disruptive Student Behavior
    Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Center for Teaching and Learning provides a set of techniques for handling a range of disruptive student behavior.
  • Resolving Conflict
    University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence also has developed specific suggestions for preventing and dealing with disruptive behaviors by students.​​​​​​​
  • Understanding Disrespect and Disruption
    University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching provides examples of specific resources.