Establishing Classroom Etiquette

The tone of classroom interaction has a significant impact on the educational environment.  These days, the pervasive use of devices such as cell phones and the fact that some students are apparently unaware of University behavioral standards or the impact of their actions on others can lead to repeated distractions and interruptions. The UC Standards of Conduct for Students provide that students may be disciplined for "disruption or obstruction" of teaching or other University functions, and for failure to identify themselves to or comply with the directions of a University official, as well as other violations of conduct standards (see Standards of Conduct for Students)

Set the stage for a positive classroom experience by:

  • Stating clear and reasonable expectations in advance 
  • Defining conduct standards and discussing rules of etiquette on your syllabus and during class
  • Giving examples of desired conduct as well as unacceptable behavior
  • Explaining the reasons for your classroom expectations and inviting student comments and suggestions
  • Being a role model for expected behavior and keeping your relationship with students friendly and professional

What is disruptive behavior?

Depending on the size and nature of your class, what is considered “disruptive” may vary,  and reasonable people can sometimes disagree about what constitutes disruptive behavior. In general, disruption and obstruction include behavior that interferes with, disrupts, or prevents normal classroom functions or activities.  Disruptive behaviors can range from mildly distracting to clearly disorderly, violent, or dangerous.

Depending on course rules set by the instructor, disruption in the classroom may include:

  • side conversations
  • use of electronics, including cell phones (ringing, texting, talking) and laptops
  • interrupting the instructor or other students
  • monopolizing class discussion and refusing to defer to instructor or listen to others; persisting when the instructor has indicated that the student’s remarks are off topic and it is time to move on
  • chronically entering late/leaving early, moving about the classroom
  • filming, photographing, or taping the class
  • yelling, arguing, swearing, bullying, or other intimidating behavior
  • reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, or not paying attention
  • shuffling through papers or cleaning out backpacks or purses during lecture
  • showing up to class under influence of alcohol/drugs

 Who decides what is disruptive?

Faculty have the authority and discretion to set rules that foster student learning.  As a matter of academic freedom, these rules can be tailored to the subject matter and the instructor’s teaching methods and learning objectives.  For these reasons, the course instructor is generally the one who makes a determination about what constitutes disruptive behavior.  When this is a matter of contention, a "reasonable person" standard is generally used. Please feel free to call OSSJA to consult if you are unsure how to view or handle a particular situation.


Edited 2/18/19 by slh