- Describe some student behaviors that you observe in your undergraduate classes that are problematic. What made them problematic? Give me an example from last week.
Some problematicbehaviors are negative attitudes, side conversations/cell phone use, and negative communication styles. These are problematic because they disrupt the flow of the classroom, they have a negative effect on the collaborative piece, and they cause tension and stress in the classroom for individuals and group projects.
Last week, I assigned a group project for my classes. My students were to work together to conduct research for a presentation, to be given in two weeks.One of the groups started talking about the project while I was giving instructions, and then when it came time to work, they had missed some of the instructions so there was some confusion about the assignment. They began arguing about who was going to do what in the assignment, and one of them got up and left the group, refusing to work with the rest.
The problematic behavior in this situation was the side conversation, first, followed by the negative communication style. Both of these issues made it difficult for learning to take place, and disrupted the collaborative nature and focus of my classroom.
- Based on teaching experiences, how would you define incivility?
Incivility is any behavior or incident that negatively affects the positive culture of a classroom, and interferes with the learning process for groups or individuals. Incivility in any learning environment can take the focus off the studentand disrupt progress towards the common achievement goals of the classroom. Additionally, incivility can bring a level of stress and strife into the classroom for both the teacher and students.
- What are some behaviors that you would describe as uncivil? When was the last time this occurred? What happened?
- Arguing or using an aggressive communication style (interrupting, sarcasm) during classroom discussion. I tend to see this happen if the discussion takes a controversial turn. The last time it happened in my class, it was two people arguing over a presidential candidate. One student called the other a derogatory term so I had to redirect the conversation back to topic.
- Cell phone use can be uncivil, especially when it is excessive. I have students who forget to turn it off and it makes some type of noise, or students who will text or be playing games throughout class. This is probably the most common behavior I have to address, and I usually just ask the student to step outside and complete their conversation or task, and then join us when they are done.
- I had a student that was not happy with a grade she received on her test. She came in at the beginning of class and asked if she could talk to me, but class was about to start so I asked if she could come see me during my office hours. She said, “Of course, I figured that’s what you would say.” Shen then went and dropped her bag down by her chair, and left the classroom. She came back about 20 minutes later and sat in her chair, doodling all through the notes that I was giving the students for the next test. Because of the negative attitude, she missed out on an important review for the next test.
- Can you share one or two examples of student incivility that you have experienced in classes?
- I had a student in class that was upset with a teacher from another class, and was talking to the students around him about the situation. After a couple of negative comments, I walked over and struck up a conversation with the group to redirect the subject.
- How do you feel when students are uncivil?
When students are uncivil in my class, I feel like I have the responsibility to step in and redirect the conversation because it affects the culture of my classroom. Relationships, communication, and that circle of peers is important to the success of my programs. Uncivil behavior disrupts the culture of my classroom and I fear that it will leave individual students with a negative view of not only my class, but my teaching.
- What factors or situations contribute to student incivility in your classes?
- If I am not engaged in my own activities and participating actively in the discussion, that can contribute to a culture of incivility.
- Use of sarcasm or sardonic comments
- Allowing students to control the discussion
- Addressing minor issues publicly — it can escalate the situation
- Allowing for discussion to get off topic and away from the material
- What strategies do you use to handle incidents of student incivility in your classes?
- I try to prevent it in the first place. At the beginning of every class, I distribute a syllabus just kind of giving of overview of the expectations for classroom/discussion conduct and just some general guidelines for acceptable and professional behavior in the classroom.
- I try to direct the conversation and keep it focused on the content by asking questions during discussions that keep the conversation heading in the way I want it to go.
- If a problem does arise, I try to redirect the conversation and return to an acceptable topic.
- If there is a problem, I address it individually with the students involved, reminding them of the classroom discussion and communication expectations.
- If it is something that I feel like I’m going to lose control of, or is escalating, I will contact my course administrator and seek the counsel and involvement of the necessary admin.