Disruptive Classroom Behavior

Identifying and Dealing with Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom: Guidelines for Miami University Faculty & Staff

Code of Student Conduct & Classroom Behavior

In an attempt to ensure an optimal learning environment, this brochure presents strategies for dealing with disruption within the classroom. We encourage you to reference the principles of Good Teaching Practices, which includes responsibilities of the student and you. These principles can be found in the Miami University Policy and Information Manual, Section 5.1 to 5.4. 

The fact that a disruptive student may have a disability should not inhibit you from acting on the inappropriate behavior. Students with or without identified disabilities are held accountable by Miami University’s Code of Student Conduct.

We encourage faculty and staff not to become ‘co-dependents’ of disruptive behavior in the classroom by ignoring the disruption. Keeping quiet sends an equally powerful message as does addressing the behavior directly.

The Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution supports faculty and staff by providing a judicial process to address student behavioral issues as they relate to maintaining an optimal learning environment. A referral to this office will initiate the judicial process detailed in the Code of Student Conduct (The Miami Bulletin, Chapter 2).

Defining Disruptive Classroom Behavior

Our office defines disruption as any behavior that seriously interferes with other student’s ability to engage in learning and/or the faculty or staff member’s ability to provide instruction or service.

We have divided disruptive behavior into two categories: Minimum Disruptive Behavior and Significant Disruptive Behavior.

Minimum Disruptive Behavior

Following are some examples of behavior that may be defined as minimally disruptive if they are persistent and/or pervasive:

  • Repeated and disruptive tardiness
  • Eating and/or drinking in class (if not permitted)
  • Electronic devices going off in class
  • Sleeping or reading a newspaper and/or magazine
  • Performing a distracting repetitive act such as tapping fingers, chewing gum, or talking
  • Disrespectful engagement of course content and/or unsolicited conversation

Significant Disruptive Behavior

There are times when behavior is so disruptive or threatening to an individual, that an immediate referral to the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution and/or the Miami University Police Department is appropriate. Following are examples of this behavior:

  • Threatening such as: ‘Dr. _____ should be careful when s/he sees me around campus’
  • Invading one’s personal space or blocking an entry way
  • Yelling and/or using aggressive body movements
  • Use of intimidating or abusive language
  • Moving in the classroom in a threatening manner and/or without authorization
  • Confrontation during office hours
  • Email harassment
  • Explicit or implicit threats

Suggestions for Prevention of Classroom Disruption

As a Miami University faculty and/or staff member, you set the behavioral standards in your classroom and during your office hours. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Define unacceptable and acceptable behavior in your course syllabus.
  • Utilize the syllabus to include the use of electronic devices in class (cell phones, laptops, etc.) as well as how classroom discussion will be conducted.
  • Discuss with your students on the first day of class what they think the behavioral norms and expectations should be. Include suggestions you find acceptable in your syllabus addendum.
  • Serve as a role model and exhibit the type of behavior you expect from your students.
  • Reference the Code of Student Conduct policies and procedures for dealing with disruptive behavior.

Responding to Disruptive Behavior

It is important to not only address the disruptive behavior when it occurs, but also to document the incident and keep a log if it continues.

For Minimum Disruptive Behavior, take the student aside and privately explain the behavior(s) that are causing the disruption. Ask the student to stop the behavior(s) and explain acceptable behavior(s).

  • If the behavior is repeated, call the student aside again. Explain that the behavior has been repeated and is 
    unacceptable.
  • Alert the student that if the behavior does not cease, a complaint may be 
    filed with the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution.
  • Document the situation and consider contacting your department chair to discuss the incident and appropriate responses to the situation.

For Significant Disruptive Behavior considered non-threatening, you should consider the following:

  • De-personalize: keep comments, issues and conversation focused on the issue or behavior not on personal attributes
  • Defuse: keep calm, listen and find ways to determine how you and the student will address what needs to happen
  • Determine a future time for discussion to avoid addressing issues with an “audience”

For Significant Disruptive Behavior that may be threatening, remove oneself and students from the situation and contact 911. Also, report the incident to the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution in 9 Warfield Hall (513-529-1417).

Important Phone Numbers

Numerous factors may contribute to a student exhibiting disruptive classroom behavior that may require additional responses more appropriately sought from one of the agencies listed below. 

Police Departments

  • 911
  • Miami University Oxford Police - 513-529-2222 
  • Hamilton Police - 513-868-5811 
  • Middletown Police - 513-425-7700 
  • West Chester Police - 513-777-2231 

Student Counseling Services

  • Oxford - 529-4634
  • Hamilton - 785-3211 
  • Middletown - 727-3431

Office of Learning Assistance

  • Oxford - 529-8741
  • Hamilton - 785-3139
  • Middletown - 727-0750

Office of Equity and Equal Opportunity

  • 529-7157

Student Health Services

  • 529-3000

Office of GLBTQ Student Services

  • 529-9293

Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution

  • 529-1417

Office of Student Affairs

  • Hamilton - 785-3211
  • Middletown - 727-3233

Dean of Students – Oxford

  • 529-1877
  • Contact the Dean of Students office for resources and referrals for conflict resolution.