Dealing with Disruptive Students

Occasionally, you'll come across a student who needs some special attention. A disruptive student is a student who conduct is clearly and imminently reckless, disorderly, dangerous, or threatening.

If you are concerned for your own or other's safety due to a student's disruptive and/ or threatening behavior, Contact Public Safety at 516.323.3500 if on RVC Main Campus. For all other Molloy College off- site locations, call 9-1-1.

If a student is causing a disruption but does not pose a threat:

  • Ensure your safety in the environment
  • Use a calm, non- confrontational approach to defuse / de-escalate the situation
  • Set limits by explaining how the behavior in inappropriate
  • If the disruptive behavior persists notify the student that disciplinary action may be taken

Here are some categories of disruptive students and rough guidelines for trying to turn the situation around:


  • Point out that you disagree because the statement does not correlate with course material
  • Offer to talk privately after class, or during office hour
  • Remain calm and non-judgmental
  • Always use evidence when disagreeing
  • Make apparent your willingness to discuss the issue calmly  

Over-talkative Student

  • Maintain the flow without reinforcing the student's behavior
  • Try to elicit responses from other students
  • Speak to the student privately about their behaviors
  • Avoid ridiculing the student or making comments to other students
  • Ask appropriate questions to focus the student

Silent Student

  • Avoid putting student on the spot
  • Try to elicit responses gradually
  • Address student privately about reasons for reticence

Grade Grubber

  • State your guidelines or expectations at the outset
  • Provide comments to support grade
  • Offer suggestions for improvement  


  • Ask the student if they have a better suggestion
  • Don't allow yourself to be pulled into an argument
  • Don't react defensively
  • Ask if student feels criticism has been heard


  • Remind this student that threats are not effective classroom processes
  • Speak to student after class to find out why behavior continues
  • Counsel student in benefits of discontinuing behaviors
  • Refer for counseling


  • Ask a question of this student; say "I'll give you a minute to think about this."
  • After class, ask student why they are not participating. It may be the class is not very interesting


  • Dealwith the Interrupter immediately, e.g.: "Just a moment, John, let Charlene finish what she was saying"
  • After class, point out how irritating this behavior is to other students
  • Suggest the student write down ideas until there is an appropriate time to express them  


  • Encourage student when tensions need release (as long as it's not at the expense of another student) Laugh, compliment their wit
  • Ignore student when it is time to get back to work
  • Student will learn that their role is the productive release of tensions, not wasting time  


  • Acknowledge this student's expertise once, but emphasize why this issue is open for group discussion For example: "Yes, you may be right, but the decision has to be made by the group after weighing all the alternatives," or
  • "You may be right, but we are tackling the problem as a group to come up with some new insights and solutions"


  • Speak to the student after class
  • Start the class on time regardless. This penalizes the student who is late, not the ones who are on time
  • Ask the student to be the group leader or to present at the next class
  • Address the importance of timeliness with the entire group


  • Catch and throw. Thank the student for their opinion, and ask someone else for an opinion Interrupt tactfully with a question requiring a yes or no answer Summarize a statement: "Excuse me, Janet, it sounds like you agree with Paul" Use a 'round robin' technique for discussion  

Side Conversations/Whisperer

  • Stop talking and wait for side conversation to end
  • Ask a direct question of one of the talkers
  • Many difficulties with students can be circumvented if you clearly outline your expectations and evaluative criteria at the beginning of every course. Identifying these details at the outset will protect you and your students from future misunderstandings, and will leave you less vulnerable.