• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Crisis in Classroom Behavior?

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

#Teachers #worldwide have #stories about #studentbehavior in the #classroom—from the quiet and diligent classroom to the uncontrollable and disruptive classroom. In 27 years of teaching at the #university level, one situation stands out the most to me, even more than the classes that had students who openly swore. On this occasion, I had put the students into groups to work together. Busy with helping a group of students, I heard a particular sound, an aerosol sound. I looked up and discovered a female student raising her shirt up and spraying on deodorant as if it was a totally natural thing to do. I had never seen anything like it in all my years of teaching. It was as if the student had made the classroom an extension of her home. Now I wonder with the Corona pandemic and the move to online learning, where the home has become the classroom, if there will be an even more dramatic change in student behavior.

With #onlinelearning, the classroom is quite literally in the student’s home, so will the distinction between #classroometiquette and outside classroom etiquette be dissolved completely? Here are a number of items commonly included in classroom etiquette and how they can translate to the online classroom. The first item is to arrive to class on time, and I would add in appropriate clothing. In the online classroom, not only might students arrive at different times before and after the official time, but they might show up in pajamas and set up their laptop on their bed. A second item is to turn off your cell phone. In the online classroom it is inevitable that students might keep the phone on mute and check for incoming calls or texts throughout the lesson. They might even go so far as to turn off their video and mute so that they can respond. The third item is not to bring food or drinks to class. If you are in the comfort of your home, it might seem irresistible to again turn off video and mute the microphone and walk away from class and grab a snack or beverage. The fourth item is to contribute to class discussion when appropriate. When you are in the comfort of your own home, paying attention might be a lot more difficult than when you are in the classroom, and the “distance” in distance learning might give you the false permission to drift off from a discussion. The fifth item is to avoid side conversations or a conversation at the same time as the main class discussion. If you are home and online, you might be surrounded by family members or even friends. It is possible that you might mute your microphone when someone at home needs or wants to talk to you or when you lose interest in the class. Finally, stay for the entire class. The nature of the online classroom is that it is distance learning. This distance might loosen the boundaries of the starting and stopping times. In other words, a student might drop off early.

David Gooblar writes in “Modeling the Behavior We Expect in Class,”If how we teach in the classroom can be as important as what we teach, it’s worth thinking about how our own behavior as faculty members might influence our students’ behavior.” This goes for the face to face classroom as well as the online classroom. Teaching students with the respect that you expect them to treat you is a clear priority. Sometimes you might need to encourage this behavior through modeling. Be early to your online class, facilitate discussions well, don’t indulge in food and drink if that is your policy for the students. Finally, consider your other student policies and how you model them and can model them better.

So, the question is, with this loosening of classroom etiquette in the move outside the classroom to distance learning, what will be the student behavior when we return to the classroom. Will there be a smooth return to normal classroom etiquette or will there be a greater need for classroom management even at the university level. To end on a positive note, according to Catherine A. Sanderson with Psychology Today, the pandemic can have positive effects. “[E]xperiencing — and overcoming — negative life experiences can actually increase our ability to enjoy simple pleasures. So, college students may come to better appreciate the joy of spending time with a friend in person — even while wearing a mask — or participating in a class discussion — even via Zoom.” Only time will tell what the outcome will be in terms of the Corona crisis. I’m not saying that every crisis has a silverlining, but this one certainly could when it comes to online learning.

For more of Barbara's Blogs, go to www.thewaylearningworks.com/blog.

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