Just as instructors determine academic standards and evaluate student performance according to those standards, it is recommended that instructors determine social conduct standards for their classroom (no chatting in class, reading newspapers, sleeping, using cell phones, etc). For courses with online components, it is recommended that expectations regarding electronic communications be included.
It is recommended that instructors provide specific information in the syllabus regarding classroom expectations in addition to a reference to the Student Code of Conduct. This not only sends a message to potentially disruptive students but also communicates to all other students that the instructor will ensure a classroom environment free from disruption.
It is important for instructors to address undesirable behaviors at first sight. This will prevent future outbreaks from the student and hopefully keep a calm and positive learning environment for both faculty and students.
Use direct communication with the student causing the difficult behavior. Use “I” statements and be clear about points of agreement, about purpose, and about needs. Have body language that shows you support them and that they have your full attention. An example of powerful sentence structure could be, “You are doing (list behavior and actions you have seen). If this behavior continues, I will ask you to leave the class for the rest of the day.”
If the oral warning does not remedy the situation and the inappropriate behavior continues:
If Step 2 processes do not remedy the situation and the inappropriate behavior continues:
NOTE: Instructors may direct a disruptive student to leave for the remainder of a class period. Longer suspensions or involuntary withdrawals require further disciplinary action through the student disciplinary process and the VPSS. Instructor documentation of the sequential events, adequate warnings, and actions are critical.
Instructors should not meet alone with a student who may be a threat to their personal safety. Instead of asking to meet after class, instructors should schedule a specific appointment so that they have time to prepare for the meeting. Instructors should call a member of the Behavioral Intervention Team for consultation prior to the meeting. They should also alert and confer with their DC and/or colleagues of when the student will be meeting with them and ask one of them to either be on standby or to join in the meeting.
If a staff member suspects that a student is suffering from depression or anxiety, they should express their concern to the student and refer them to Counseling Services. Sometimes it is hard to know how to approach the student or what to say to a student who appears to be in distress.
The following examples demonstrate techniques for responding to a student in distress.
Kari is obviously upset and tearful during class and the instructor asks her to stay after.
Instructor: I noticed you seem very upset. Are you OK? Would you like to talk about it?
Student: My grandmother passed away last week and I am having a really hard time. I really miss her and can’t seem to concentrate on anything.
This student is having a normal response to the death of a loved one. The loss is still recent, only a week ago. Loss of concentration and tearfulness are a natural part of the grieving process. If the same scenario occurred and the loss of loved one occurred ten months ago, the staff member might consider referring the student to Counseling Services. Although everyone’s grieving period is different, if the student is still unable to concentrate and is having trouble functioning after ten months, she may need some professional help moving through the stages of grief.
Bill started out the semester strong, but recently began missing class and not turning in work. The instructor asks him to stay after class to discuss his progress in the class.
Instructor: I noticed that you started out the semester very well, but lately you’ve been missing class and assignments. I’m concerned about your grade and success in this class.
Student: I’m feeling overwhelmed. I am in four classes and work nights. I’m trying to balance that with my family. I just can’t seem to do anything right.
If the student meets with a counselor, they can discuss time management, tutoring, withdrawing from a class or two and the time commitment it takes to be successful in class. Along with the academic issues the counselor and student can also discuss the student’s personal struggles. Maybe they are having problems in their relationship or are experiencing symptoms of depression that warrant a referral to a local community agency.
The common denominator in these scenarios: