Plan Ahead to Prevent Problems

Many instructors make the assumption that university students are already aware of expected classroom behavior.  However, often there is a discrepancy between what faculty and students see as acceptable deportment.  Behavioral standards and consequences for violating them should be explicitly stated in course syllabi.

Establish Guidelines for Contact with Students:

  • Let students know how and under what circumstances they may contact you, including the appropriate use of phone mail and email.   Let your comfort level be your guide about what types of concerns you would welcome from students.  It is appropriate to establish personal and professional boundaries with students.
  • Email and phone mail are not always a completely confidential means of communication.  Phone mail left for a student can be accessed by anyone in that room.  Email as well, can go astray or be read by others. Both parties need to consider the content of electronic communication and the level of confidentiality required.

Establish Expectations for Classroom and On-line Conduct and Electronic Communication:

  • Most professors have an expressed code of conduct for civil classroom behavior as part of their syllabus or introductory remarks to their classes.  It is best to make these expectations known, and if students deviate from behavioral guidelines, they can be reminded of them as a first step in addressing disruptive behavior.
  • The number of students taking online classes has increased, as has the use of electronic communication tools, such as Blackboard. With the increase in use comes an avenue for disruptive and unacceptable behavior. Students may make comments electronically that they would not make in person-to-person contact. Just as faculty members establish classroom conduct they must also establish expectations for students during on-line classes and through electronic communications. It is recommended that specific language regarding expectations for electronic communication be included on the syllabus for the course.  For example:

Keep in mind that all electronic interactions (e-mail, chats, discussion forums, etc.) are an extension of our classroom and should be treated as such.

DO NOT enter a chat room, send e-mail, or participate in an online discussion under an alias, a false name, or as "anonymous." This is an important rule that everyone must follow so that we may maintain a safe academic environment. Entering an academic space, whether it be online or in a traditional classroom, and misrepresenting yourself is a violation of university expectations for student conduct, and could be subject to university disciplinary action.

Class members will no doubt disagree with one another on various issues and articles discussed in class and online. That's fine—disagreement and critique promote a deeper understanding.  But please take care to distinguish academic criticism and political debate from personal attacks and "power plays." In other words, if you are offering criticism, do not frame your remarks in ways that are demeaning to others. By the same token, try not to be defensive if your idea receives criticism in a way that really is not a personal attack. With this in mind, we can have lively discussions, which prompt us all to think more critically about the assumptions, feelings, and values we hold.