Guide to Healthy Learning

& Positive Classroom Environment

In order to foster a campus culture of civility and respect, it is important to articulate expectations, encourage discussion, and respond to problems consistently. Faculty members encounter fewer problems with student behavior when they clearly state their expectations about the importance of respectful classroom behavior early in the term.

Faculty members in their course materials and early class discussions could use the following statement (or something along these lines):

"Ridgewater College expects students to maintain standards of personal integrity that are in harmony with the educational goals of the institution; to observe national, state, and local laws and College policies and regulations; and to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people."

While the College is a place where the free exchange of ideas and concepts allows for debate and disagreement, all classroom behavior and discourse should reflect the values of respect and civility. Both students and the course instructors share the responsibility to maintain an appropriate learning environment that reflects these values. Students have both the right to learn and the responsibility to participate respectfully in the learning process.

Disruptive behavior by students occurs on a continuum of low-risk to high-risk behaviors. Disruptive behavior is considered behavior that interferes with College or College-sponsored activities, including but not limited to ;classroom related activities, studying, teaching, intellectual or creative endeavors, administration, service or the provision of communication, computing or emergency services.

Disrupting class can be a disciplinary offense, which is included in the Student Code of Conduct Policy. The term "classroom disruption" means behavior a reasonable person would view as interfering with the conduct of a class. Examples include making distracting noises, persistent speaking without being recognized, repeated interruption, or resorting to physical threats or personal insults.

Some disruptive students may have emotional or mental disorders. Although such students may be considered disabled and are protected under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, they are expected to meet the same standards of conduct as any student.

It is important that instructors establish the standards for his or her classroom and enforce them for all students, in conformance with the principles of academic freedom.

In cases where the behavior is minimally disruptive, it is recommended that the staff or faculty member talk with the student immediately upon observing any behavior that is disruptive.

Examples of minimally disruptive behaviors in the classroom include:

  • Being late to class
  • Beepers and cell phones going off during class
  • Reading the newspaper.

In a work environment, minimally disruptive behaviors may include ignoring the instructions of a College official, yelling, or blocking access to College resources.

The purpose of the discussion between the faculty member and the student is to review the disruptive behavior and its impact on the learning environment. This discussion should include behavioral expectations; how to correct the behavior, and possible future consequences should the behavior persist.

The student should receive a written summary of that meeting and a copy should be forwarded to the Dean of Student Services for recording purposes, as appropriate.

The written summary should include:

  1. A description of the disruptive behavior
  2. An expectation of appropriate classroom behavior
  3. A statement indicating that if further incidents of the disruptive behavior continue, a referral to the Dean of Student Services will follow.

In the case of workplace disruptions, the staff member should address the disruptive behavior. If the behavior continues, a Code of Conduct complaint should be immediately forwarded to the Dean of Student Services.

In cases where a student may exhibit distress due to an apparent psychological disorder, the staff or faculty member is encouraged to consult with the Counseling Office or Disability Services.

There are times when behavior is so disruptive that an immediate referral to the Dean of Student Services is appropriate, such as continuous interruptions during a single time period.

In such cases, the staff or faculty member should immediately contact the Dean and submit a written complaint summarizing the incident.

Generally, faculty and staff members are clear about which situations they feel comfortable dealing with themselves and which need disciplinary or higher level responses. Consequently, if the behavior feels intimidating, threatening, or disturbing, it is wise to consult early on, before the conduct becomes an emergency.

Distinguishing irritating behavior from antagonistic or disruptive conduct can guide one's response to the situation.

When a serious incident of disruptive behavior occurs in the classroom, any academic building, or on the campus, local police should be contacted immediately by calling 911.

Classroom disruption by students can constitute a serious breach of College expectations as described in our Code of Conduct Policy.

Faculty members are encouraged to respond to conduct which is disruptive to the academic environment, and they may require students to leave the class pending discussions and resolutions of the concerns. Students may be referred to the Dean of Student Services for possible disciplinary action up to and including suspension or expulsion. If there is any immediate threat to the safety of any person, the police should be called.

Blue light phones and conventional office phones throughout the campus can be used as emergency telephones. The average emergency response time to on-campus locations is just a few minutes. The police emergency dispatcher will contact other services, such as ambulances, if needed.

If you are unable to make the call yourself, designate a specific person to do it. When making a call, provide as much information as possible about the nature of the problem in addition to the location of the incident.