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Responding to disruptions in the classroom

Even when instructors have taken steps to create inclusive learning environments, conflict and disruption may arise. The conflict may be the result of someone disregarding the class community agreements or may emerge from someone’s response to difficult or controversial content. This page shares some ideas for thinking about how to prevent and respond to classroom disruptions and unproductive conflict.

State expectations in the syllabus

Consider including a clear statement in your syllabus that discriminatory language or conduct is unacceptable. You might also briefly discuss (in the syllabus or in class) why this statement matters to you and to the students’ learning.

Develop and refer to course community agreements

Community agreements are statements that guide how members of a classroom community (students, instructors, TAs) will work and interact with each other. Establishing community agreements is an inclusive teaching strategy that supports a positive class climate and fosters student learning, academic success, and a sense of community. When conflict arises, community agreements can serve as a roadmap for how to productively address the conflict. Before beginning a discussion of controversial content, revisiting the community agreements can help set expectations for how students will engage each other. Learn more about how to create community agreements.

Explore relevant university codes and guidelines

The UW Student Conduct Code contains information relevant to prohibited and disruptive behavior. The Office of the Vice President of Student Life provides useful information on best practices for responding to disruptions, as well as information on the rights of faculty and teaching assistants and guidance on what to do if your efforts to mitigate disruptive behavior do not work.