The Five Most Disruptive Student Behaviors

By Doug Hoffman

Rock bouncing off professor's headRecently I asked 21 Colorado State University College of Business faculty members and 30 upper-division marketing students to answer the question: "What are the five most disruptive student behaviors in the classroom?" The following two lists contain the most commonly observed infractions—in the order of frequency in which they were mentioned.

I have to admit that I thought the lists would be duplicates of one another. I was wrong. Of the 18 behaviors listed in the students' responses, ten—highlighted in red—were unique to the students’ perspective. Interestingly, three of the top six did not make the faculty list at all.

 

Faculty Perspective Student Perspective
  1. Side discussions (13)
  2. Arriving late/leaving early (11)
  3. Inappropriate laptop use (10)
  4. Cell phone issues (including text messaging) (10)
  5. Newspapers/Sudoko (6)
  6. Sleeping in class (4)
  7. Failure to prepare for class (2)
  8. Yawning loudly (1)
  9. Trashed classrooms (1)
  10. Smells (1)
  11. Dishonesty (1)
  12. Packing up early (1)
  13. Debating grades in class (1)
  14. Untimely bathroom breaks (1)
  15. Using class time to ask personal questions (e.g., make-up exam) (1)
  16. Getting a large class to quiet down before starting (1)
  17. Dirty looks (1)
  18. Inappropriate emails to students & faculty (1)
  19. Not showing up for class (1)
  20. Inappropriate language (1)
  21. Unprofessional and gender-
    condescending males (1)
  1. Side discussions (20)
  2. Cell phone issues (including text messaging) (20)
  3. Group project issues (14)
  4. Over-the-top Participators… older students particularly (11)
  5. Inappropriate laptop use (11)
  6. Food Issues (9)
    • Loud eating
    • Smelly food
  7. Unprepared for class (7)
  8. Arriving late/leaving early (5)
  9. Distracting professor with off topic questions (4)
  10. Body odor (3)
  11. Newspapers/Suduko (3)
  12. Sick classmates who show up for class (2)
  13. Sleeping (2)
  14. Tapping/clicking pens (2)
  15. Untimely bathroom breaks (1)
  16. Bouncing knee that shakes table (1)
  17. Tall people blocking view (1)
  18. The opposite sex (1)

What can we learn from this?

First, a lot of the behaviors that irritate faculty irritate students as well—especially the dominant ones: side discussions, cell phone use, and inappropriate laptop use. Consequently, you’ll be doing everyone a favor if you can effectively manage these particular types of behavior.

Second, students have their own set of issues and faculty will do themselves a favor by being fully aware of them as well.