Classroom Management: What Would You Do?

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Yesterday in the Course in College Teaching we introduced some classroom managment situations. It sounded like a lot of people could relate to them. In the spirit of continuing the conversation and sharing ideas, here are a few of the scenarios. Do any of these sound familiar to you? What would you do? Or what have you done in situations like these?

1) One of your students came late to the first few classes, interrupts your lecture loudly, doesn't let others get a chance to answer questions and habitually forgets to turn off his cell phone. Most annoyingly, during class, he walks out of the classroom [across the front], and saunters back.

2) You are teaching in a computer classroom. Even though you are not using the technology at the moment, students are busily typing away. The clacking is making it difficult for some students to actually hear the material.

3) You are teaching a small lecture-type class and students regularly arrive 10 minutes late. In addition, others leave 10-15 minutes early. In a 55-minute class it feels like the comings and goings never end.

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The first thing that always pops into my mind when I see such scenarios is a flashback to a faculty workshop on disrespectful student behaviors. We used similar scenarios as those provided by Larkin. The faculty in that workshop took the discussion in a direction that I didn't expect. Some of the faculty challenged their colleagues to consider alternative explanations for the behavior beyond lack of respect, selfishness, or cluelessness. The discussion came full circle in a lively debate in which they concluded that any interpretation could be correct, unless they spoke with the offending student. That discussion caused a lot of "Aha!" moments among the faculty who realized that before assuming the best or the worst, they should first talk to the student.

Of course, that doesn't help in the case of a student that just doesn't care...but it was an eye-opening discussion for many of us nonetheless.

One behavior that nearly all of us have experienced, is the student whose head is down on her desk during class. Is she asleep? We all heard about a real student who had figured out that it was the best way for her to concentrate on what the instructor was saying and not be distracted by the other students. Indeed, the student might have been misinformed that because she had a *preference* for "learning by listening" it was the _only_ way she could learn. But she also might have a condition that supported her approach. The faculty member who brought up this students did feel that it helped avoid an incorrect classification of the student and an antagonistic response.

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