Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

There is no penalty or consequence for rude behavior

There is no penalty or consequence for rude behavior

The consequences associated with a behavior help determine whether or not that behavior will be repeated. If instructors fail to curtail rudeness, or do so inconsistently, those behaviors are likely to continue.

Respond immediately.

If instructors fail to respond to rude behavior, or do so inconsistently, the behavior is likely to continue and may, in fact, spread to other students. Thus, it is important to respond immediately. How you choose to address the problem will depend on the nature of the behavior as well as your individual style. Upon encountering rude behavior, you might choose to address the class as a whole, delineating what is and is not acceptable for your class (e.g., “My T.A. has drawn my attention to some inappropriate laptop use in class. Here is my policy concerning laptops…”). If the problem stems from one or two individuals, you might respond in a number of ways, beginning with a gentle admonition (e.g., “Manish, would you mind putting away your drink until after class?”) and then, if the behavior continues, addressing the problem more forcefully. Some instructors might choose to take the problem student(s) aside after class to discuss the issue. Others might opt to address the behavior publicly by stopping what they’re doing and directing a hard look or pointed comment at the problematic student (e.g., “Wendy, I’d appreciate it if you confined your comments to the material being discussed”). While it is important to respond immediately and consistently, how you handle the matter will depend very much on the nature of the problem, the student(s) in question, and what feels most comfortable to you.

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