I found this article on CNN, and it seemed very timely. As a grad student, I find myself in the unique position of being both a student and a faculty member depending on the day and time. So I've seen the the phenomena from both sides. I've had students take calls in class, inform me they were leaving early because they had "something else to do", and email me to let me know that they weren't doing their assignment because they didn't like it.
Being a student, however, has helped me to think about how to handle these situations. I've been a student in classes where my peers were acting in similar ways. I found myself very frustrated when my professors wouldn't address it at all. That motivated me to try and bring up issues of manners in my classes when I can, publically.
As an instructor, I see, though, how difficult it can be to do so sometimes. So in classes, I will try and ask people who are being disruptful to pipe down, trying to help the teacher out by not placing the full burden on them.
The largest problem, from my perspective is technology. Folks thinking that it is now ok to text message in class. To IM their friends or to surf the net while in class is also no longer seen by many students as inappropriate. There is the need to be in constant communication with one's world and class isn't seen as important enough an event to warrent not being able to send and receive communication for 2 hours.
What the article doesn't mention is that some students are learning this behavior from their own professors. I've had faculty take calls during class, or answer emails on their blackberry. If that is their level of respect for their own course, how can we expect students to honor it more?
That said, I think the professor Kirk's suggestions below are a good start to returning civility to the classroom. The tone that is set early on makes a strong impression and lets folks know what to expect from a class as well as what is or is not appropriate.
Copyright 2006 John M.
During lectures, they answer their cell phones, text message their friends and play games on their laptop computers. Are college students really that rude? Yes, says Delaney Kirk, a professor of management at Drake University in Des Moines. But, she adds, it's not their fault. "It's the same behavior we're seeing in the rest of society," Kirk says. "There's a general lack of social skills."
Part of the problem is the lure of the techno-gadgets that students bring into the classroom -- cell phones, Blackberries and laptop computers. "Students think they can e-mail, text message, check the Web and listen to you, and they can't," Kirk says. During her workshops, Kirk presents a top-10 list to help college instructors better manage their classes.
Among her suggestions:
- Establish credibility by telling students how they will benefit from taking the class.
- Decide how formal or informal the class will be.
- Set clear expectations and enforce them.
- On the first day of class, emphasize its importance by giving an assignment that students must turn in at the next class.
- Handle discipline problems immediately.