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Suggestions for Responding to Disruptive Students


Suppose you have already worked hard to create a positive learning environment and disruptive behavior arises in class, what then? While every situation is unique and each instructor has a unique level of tolerance and preferred style for dealing with student behavior, here are some suggestions you may find helpful:
  1. Deal with disruptive behavior early, before you get angry or feel threatened.
  2. Don’t take students' behavior personally. Understand that they are coming into the classroom with their own personal history and issues. Don't let them "hook" you. If they behave this way in your classroom, chances are they behave this way elsewhere as well. 
  3. Decide if you need to deal with the behavior immediately or if it can wait until after class. If it requires an immediate response, verbally request that the student stop the disruptive behavior. If the problem persists, ask the student to leave.
  4.  If you need to reprimand a student, speak with the student privately if possible. This will avoid defensiveness and/or "acting out" in response to being shamed in front of their peers.
  5. Positive strategies might be best with a student who is monopolizing the discussion or going off on a tangent, might include saying:
    “We’ve heard John’s opinion. What do others think? “
    “It seems like we have two conversations going. Let’s come back to the topic at hand.”
  6. Meet with the student to discuss the disruptive behavior.
  7. When necessary, set specific behavioral expectations and then hold them to it. State your expectations clearly. Focus on behavior, not personality or labels.