Thoughts on Incivility: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Uncivil Behavior in Nursing Education

By Clark, Cynthia M.; Springer, Pamela J. | Nursing Education Perspectives, March-April 2007 | Go to article overview

Thoughts on Incivility: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Uncivil Behavior in Nursing Education


Clark, Cynthia M., Springer, Pamela J., Nursing Education Perspectives


ABSTRACT Faculty members complain about the rise of uncivil behavior in their students, and students voice similar complaints about faculty. Using an interpretive qualitative method for research, this study examined student and faculty perceptions of incivility in nursing education, possible causes of incivility, and potential remedies. Narrative analysis yielded the following categories: in-class disruption by students, out-of-class disruption by students, uncivil faculty behaviors, and possible causes of incivility in nursing education. The authors argue that further research is needed to increase awareness and understanding about academic incivility, its impact, and its psychological and social consequences.

Keywords Codes of Conduct--Incivility--Student Behavior--Student-Faculty Relations

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CONNIE SEEMS TO CHALLENGE EVERYTHING HER NURSING PROFESSOR SAYS. During small-group work, Connie text messages her friends and rarely pays attention. The professor is impatient and uses harsh language with Connie in front of other students.

THIS SCENARIO, a common one in many of today's nursing programs, is typical of situations that are at best disparaging and, under the worst circumstance, potentially violent. Evidence suggests that incivility on American college campuses is a serious and growing concern (1-8).

Fostering an atmosphere of civility on college campuses presents a challenge. To be "civil" is to be polite, respectful, and decent. Conversely, "incivility" is defined as speech or action that is disrespectful or rude and ranges from insulting remarks and verbal abuse to explosive, violent behavior (9). Academic incivility is any speech or action that disrupts the harmony of the teaching-learning environment. Some uncivil behaviors can be quite disruptive and affect the academic environment so radically that learning is effectively terminated (10). THIS ARTICLE reports on a study of perceptions of nurse faculty and nursing students in one school of nursing regarding incivility in nursing education, its possible causes, and potential remedies.

Review of the Literature INCIVILITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION To create a more civil society, Eberly urges Americans to elevate common good over self-interest, to encourage wider civic participation, and to renew social values (11). Carter believes that rudeness and disrespect are "the merest scratch of the surface of [our societal] crisis" (12, p. 16) and evidence of our nation's growing incivility. According to Carter, selfishness and getting one's own needs met are crowding into the social life of America, including our nation's classrooms.

While academic incivility is not a new phenomenon, Braxton and Bayer (2,3) suggest that it is on the rise, and that courtesy and civility among faculty and students are fracturing and dissolving on college campuses across the country. Faculty members complain about the rise of uncivil behavior in their students (5,8,13,14), and students voice similar complaints about faculty (1,2,15-17).

Education plays an important role in developing a civil society, and higher education plays a special role in helping students develop a sense of civic and social responsibility and learn ways to contribute to the common good (18). In the United States, where public education is integral to preparing citizens for employment and socioeconomic mobility, education also accepts social responsibility for well-being in civil society (19).

Many explanations for academic incivility have been suggested, including exposure to violence, poor secondary school preparation, changing student demographics, and inadequate parenting (2). Levine and Cureton describe contemporary college students as distrustful of leadership, lacking confidence in social institutions, and being ill prepared for the rigors of academe (20). Braxton and Bayer indicate that it is important to consider the changing demographics of students as well as the impact of faculty behaviors (2,3). …

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