Class Management

 Disruptive students

What's the problem?

It's self-explanatory. Just one or a small number of students disrupt the class.

For novice teachers, an early experience with a disruptive student can get them out of the profession. For those with more experience, such students can be the bane of their lives. For the other students, of course, they can jeopardise the whole learning experience.

What does it mean?

(Don't skip this bit. I know you want answers and not sterile theorising, but the tactics which are most likely [no guarantees] to work depend on appropriate strategy. There is no "one size fits all" solution.)

How can I handle it, so I can learn from it?

  1. Calm down.
  2. Reflect and diagnose.
  3. Itemise the problematic behaviour(s)
  4. Develop strategies to handle them.
  5. Implement them.
  6. Reflect and evaluate, but only change them in the light of clear and consistent contrary evidence.

I know—I'm still not telling you what the strategies are, but there is no single "killer app." here. 

Bottom line at the time

First and always: give the disruptive student(s) the minimum attention necessary.

Be familiar with the sanctions available to you: the last thing you want to do is to be out of order and in trouble yourself, but equally you need to be confident that the institution will back your decisions.

Do nothing to make the situation worse.

If you do get into potentially fraught "discussions" with a disruptive student, make sure that you have a colleague present.

To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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