Academic journal article College Student Journal

Predicting and Curbing Classroom Incivility in Higher Education

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Predicting and Curbing Classroom Incivility in Higher Education

Article excerpt

This research examines predictors of uncivil classroom behavior. Uncivil behaviors are disrespectful and disruptive and may include carrying on conversations with others during class, leaving class early, talking on cell phones, etc. Data from a survey of undergraduate students revealed that students who possessed a consumerism orientation, narcissistic tendencies and viewed uncivil behaviors as appropriate were more likely to engage in such behaviors. Additionally, females and students planning to attend graduate school were less likely to engage in uncivil conduct. Suggestions for minimizing uncivil classroom behavior are provided.


Perceptions of entitlement have come under scrutiny in a number of different contexts (Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, & Bushman, 2004). Recently, the issue of entitlement has been discussed in educational circles with faculty and administrators lamenting that students often believe knowledge should be acquired with a minimum of effort on their part (Boice, 1996). Rather than putting in effort toward learning, increasingly students appear to want to be entertained (Edmundson, 1997), to feel comfortable (Trout, 19997) and to be rewarded with high grades for simply attending class (Gose, 1997). In this environment, students take on a passive learner role while faculty bear more responsibility for student learning.

When asked to assume a larger role in the learning process, students may be resistant if not openly hostile (Boice, 1996). "Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others" (Andersson & Pearson, 1999, p. 457). In the classroom, uncivil behaviors may include text messaging, leaving after receiving an exam back, reading the newspaper, carrying on disruptive conversations, etc.

Although accounts of student insolence, indifference and disruptiveness at lower educational levels have proliferated (e.g., Plank, McDill, & McPartland, 2001), relatively little is known about classroom incivilities in higher education (Boice, 1996). Boice (1996) suggested several reasons for this lack of attention. First, it may be embarrassing for instructors (particularly those in higher education) to acknowledge that they cannot control such classroom behavior. Second, instructors may receive little training to deal with the problem. Finally, Boice argues that administrators may be reluctant to publicly discuss such problems for fear of tarnishing the institution's image.

Attitudes toward uncivil behaviors

There are several factors which may promote entitlement perceptions and contribute to uncivil classroom behavior. One obvious factor is one's attitude regarding the appropriateness of uncivil classroom behavior. To understand young adults' attitudes regarding appropriate behavior, it is important to get a sense of their world. Hersch (1998) pointed out current college students are more socially isolated than students from twenty years ago because their parents work longer hours and live very hectic lives. As a result, the current students are often forced to develop their world views and behavioral expectations in conjunction with their peers rather than with adults. Thus, it should not be surprising that students and adults often have markedly different views regarding what constitutes appropriate behavior. Compounding this sense of isolation is the widespread use of electronic mail, personal computers, and chat rooms. The impersonality associated with such communication tools may provide adolescents with few cues about how to effectively navigate in the "real" social world (Hernandez & Fister, 2001). Consequently, some students may see nothing wrong in behaving in ways that others construe as uncivil. Thus, college students' attitudes toward uncivil behaviors may be important predicators of engaging in those behaviors.

Although behavior is not always consistent with attitudes, it is reasonable to expect that those who hold more favorable attitudes toward certain behaviors may possess stronger behavioral intentions and ultimately act in accordance with their beliefs. …

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