Typical Classroom Problems
• Unprepared Students – Students who come to class without
the proper equipment or without having read the required
• Inattentive Students – Students who sleep or read
newspapers/magazines, use cell phones for talking/texting
or eat in class, and shuffle papers or rummage
• Aggressive Students – Students who argue with other
students and challenge authority/rules
• Discouraged Students – Students who miss classes/due
dates, enter the class late or leave early, and show a general
lack of energy
• Attention-Seeking Students – Students who monopolize classroom discussions, curse, are intoxicated, or
express sexist or racist comments
Research has shown that much of classroom management and teaching in general, is about the effort
instructors put into it. Learning starts with a dedicated teacher interested in meeting the challenge of
how to present their material and content in a way that successfully navigates the barriers students erect.
Students, like everyone, seek peace and happiness. They aren’t looking to be singled out or create conflict
– this fundamentally, isn’t a human goal. Students are however, often overwhelmed with stress. They don’t
see all of their choices and allow obstacles in their environment to affect their behaviour in an undesirable
Strategies and Techniques to Defuse Disruptive Classroom Behaviour and Enhance Learning
1. First seek to understand the context of your student’s behaviour. C. Rogers suggested through empathetic
listening, genuine caring and positive support, students would feel connected, listened to and willing to
consider new choices when offered.
2. Create an environment in which the student feels safe expressing their ideas.
3. Work together to create new opportunities leading towards mutual success.
4. Be aware of your end goal – helping the student complete the task in front of them, removing obstacles,
creating new solutions.
5. When we understand why the student is upset, and understand where they are coming from, then we can
intervene and create in Stephen Covey’s words “a win-win situation”.
6. Try seeing the situation from the student’s eyes (empathy) to
understand their lack of motivation for change, but help the
student understand that their current actions will not lead to a
7. Avoid arguing with the student (despite how wrong they are or how
good it feels) – roll with the student when they push emotionally.
8. Motivation is a question of understanding where a student is on
the change theory continuum. They may need to be guided and
encouraged to explore change. Look for positive connections to
9. We all have the chance to be successful under the right
circumstances. Connect students to the appropriate resources.
10. Encourage the student to take responsibility for their behaviour
and see their behaviour as something they have control over, not
an “automatic response” outside of their control. Understand
failure as a part of life. Students struggle with learning this
lesson. Teach them to overcome obstacles and that the most
successful people learn from mistakes and overcome challenges.
11. We can try to help the student address how they react to stress. Don’t fall into the trap of over-parenting the
student by doing things for them or “taking the student home” – either emotionally or physically. Refer to
counselling as needed.
12. When working with students with social problems make sure to offer messages that are concise, short and
focused on the desirable action. Offer information that is clear. Avoid addressing multiple issues at one time.
13. When faced with aggressive and assertive student behaviour, remain calm. Walk to the front of the class
which gives the student some space and time to reconsider their approach. Try not to think that the student
is personally breaking your rules or questioning your authority. Leave the scene to get help if the person
seems threatening to you, or if you feel in danger. Do not ignore these feelings. Call for help if you are
14. Call campus security immediately (416 675 8500) when students hurt themselves. Rule of thumb: if you
see blood or a weapon, someone needs to call the police.
15. Follow up on a situation. Pass on the information to your Dean, Program Coordinator, Associate Dean or
16. Don’t ignore your responsibility to address substance abuse. College is often the last chance students have
to get assistance for their substance abuse problem before they enter the real world and the court system.
17. Remember – You retain the ultimate ability to grade your student and control your classroom.
“The smallest interactions can play a vital role in increasing the desire to change one’s life.”
(Rath and Clifton).