Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

STUDENT SUPPORT AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION 

At CTE, we understand that often you will need to offer support and assistance to students in ways that are not strictly pedagogical. This support can take many forms, including helping students obtain groceries, legal services, medical and mental health services, and financial assistance for emergencies. This page contains information for KU Resources that will cover all of these needs. In addition to helping students in need, you may also be put in a position to resolve conflicts within the classroom. In addition to this two-minute mentor video, we encourage you consult this page for information on strategies to resolve classroom conflicts.

Student Support

The Teaching the ‘Whole Student’ Resources will direct you to resources on campus that might be useful as you encounter students who need support and assistance beyond academics. Recognizing ourselves and our students as a ‘whole’ individual with needs and values beyond those that appear in the classroom helps us build a community of committed and connected learners. These resources include counseling & mental health services, career planning, child care & parenting, support for international, LGBTQ, and students of color, and financial assistance.

Responding to Disruptive Behaviors

Incivility and misconduct disrupt learning. To keep your classroom environment positive, consider these suggestions from Mary Lord, reprinted in “Tomorrow’s Professor.”

1. Halt Bad Behavior Before it Starts.

Set expectations early, in writing and verbally. Research shows that students are more likely to rationalize misconduct if they feel the instruction is poor, lecture confusing, or workload unreasonable. Underscoring the relevance of the material and learning objectives can boost motivation and reduce the urge to cheat.

2. Decrease Anonymity.

Faculty who get to know their students tend to have less conflict in the classroom or hostile discourse online. Calling on students by name makes an instructor seem more approachable and thus more likely to gain their respect. Large lecture class? Scheduling time to meet individually with students can foster rapport.

3. Encourage Active Learning.

Classes that include peer-to-peer learning have fewer incidents of rude or unethical behavior, research indicates, because students tend to take more responsibility and hold each other accountable. Active learning and small-group work can reduce chatting and inattentiveness even in large classes.

4. Make it Harder to Cheat.

The availability of solutions to textbook problems on the Internet makes it hard for educators to directly address cheating on homework. Consider research on the value of ungraded assignments, increasing the weight of projects, and either writing your own questions or swapping problems with instructors at other schools. Other studies have found that giving harsh warnings against cheating right before a test can reduce transgressions by 13 percent, with a 25 percent drop for writing multiple versions of a test. Meanwhile, plagiarism-detection software can cut down on copy-and-paste essays or computer code.

5. Establish Ground Rules for Disruptive Technologies.

Many students view smartphones and tablets as essential tools. To minimize withdrawal pains, on the first day of class you might discuss and then vote on rules and consequences for disruptive technologies. The most successful has been a two-minute texting/phone/email break in the middle of class.

6. If you can't beat 'em...

Tablets, smartphones, and other mobile technologies can be used to promote deeper engagement and understanding. For example, ask students to take notes on tablets, use smartphone accelerometer apps to track their commute to class and graph the data, and conduct hands-on mini-experiments using other free measurement apps. Students also can use their smart devices in independent projects—all without the college needing to invest heavily in infrastructure.

7. Address Disruptive Behavior Immediately.

Faculty and students agree that ignoring incivility is the least effective approach for halting it. Think about talking to inattentive students in private or refocusing the class by using think/pair/share or other active-learning techniques. Severe disruptions, such as threats of violence, may leave faculty members no option but to stop the lecture and contact campus security.

In their teaching workshops, Richard M. Felder, a retired chemical engineering professor from North Carolina State University, and his wife, Rebecca Brent, ask participants to brainstorm responses to such everyday disruptions as students strolling in late, chatting loudly, or sleeping. Ironically, no one ever recommends asking the offenders politely but firmly to stop their rude behavior. "It's almost as if instructors don't know it's legal to do it," wrote Felder and Brent in a column. "It is legal. And it works." So does chiding. To look up from that Youtube video, students often need just one word: "Really?!"

References: “Driven to Distraction.” Tomorrow's Professor.

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