Classroom Management

    •  Responding Constructively to Student Disruption

      Student disruption occurs on a continuum. An instructor has 3 basic choices:

        • ignore it
        • confront it
        • defuse it.

      Ignoring it is the least effective option. The most unfortunate result of letting it go by is that other students become frustrated by the behaviour and may begin to act out themselves as they find themselves less and less able to focus in what may feel like an 'out of control' classroom.

      Disruptive behaviour can be confronted in many venues:

        • by a note on an assignment
        • by a private word after class
        • by a direct response in the classroom.

      The chart below is a suggested way to frame an in-class intervention. Note that it is brief, specific and has the option of including a request to meet with the student after class.  As well, as it is the initial intervention, it avoids putting too much pressure on the student(s) exhibiting the behaviour by making the intervention a general request.

      Initial Intervention




      Office Visit

      When voices are raised...

      [avoiding‘you’ and making it a general statement allows them to save face (at this stage)] creates tension and anxiety and makes discussion difficult...

      I ask that we all speak calmly and thoughtfully.

      I'd like to meet with you after class.


      When people chat while others are speaking... disrupts the class and peoples' learning.

      I ask everyone to pay attention in silence when others have the floor.

      I'd like to meet with you both after class.


      When peoples' ideas are dismissed or insulted... creates discomfort and embarrassment OR it prevents academic dialogue.

      I ask that we treat all ideas with respect, whether or not we agree.

      I'd like to meet with you after class.


      Escalating Behaviour, Escalating Consequences




      Office Visit

      When you behave in such an threatening way...

      ...I can't continue with the class.

      Stop now or security will be called.

      If you intend to continue with this class, see me in my office.

      Call for Help

      When all else fails or the situation suddenly goes from normal to threatening, CALL SECURITY 1763. Don't announce that what you're doing or the student may try to forcibly stop you.

      Office Discussion with Disruptive Student



      • To let the student know the impact of her/his behaviour on the learning environment and the value of appropriate participation.
      • To understand where the student was coming from. Don't assume bad intentions or bad character from inappropriate behaviour. Ask whether there is anything you are doing that is contributing to the student's behaviour. What information might you not have access to that they think is important to the situation? How did your actions impact on them?
      • To make agreements for the future.



      If all is calm, you'll just need basic communication skills: assertive expression as above (Behaviour, Impact, Request) and active listening skills (paraphrasing, acknowledging feelings, asking open questions). If, however, the student gets angry you will need to know how to defuse her/him too.


      You may need to defuse an angry student in your office or in the classroom. If the person's anger is very high they are analytically weak, so you need to talk to them in short, simple sentences.

      Remain calm

      These thoughts may help you to do this. Remember:

        • You don't need to prove yourself.
        • Shift from judgment to curiosity.
        • Non-verbally reassure the other person
        • Allow adequate personal space
        • Use slow calm movements, open handed gestures.
        • Encourage talking. 
        • Maintain eye contact.
        • Don't interrupt.
        • "I'm interested in what you have to say."
        • Show understanding.
        • "You are angry because you got a B and not an A."
        • "You were embarrassed because I confronted you in class."
        • Help them save face.
        • Offer the option to pursue the issue later.
        • Refrain from openly judging their behaviour. 
        • Reassure that their issues will be dealt with. 
        • Disengage if necessary.