Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students are responding to course content and/or classroom dynamics in emotional and unproductive ways.

Students are experiencing personal problems that are outside your control.

Individual students may exhibit inappropriate behaviors or emotional reactions in class for reasons that have little or nothing to do with you or your course. They may be under stress from personal or family crises, for example, or struggling with drugs or alcohol. Moreover, some students may have mental health conditions that make them especially sensitive or insensitive to social cues; this is especially true these days as more students are able, through the use of medication, to come to college with cognitive and psychological conditions that might have kept them out of college a generation ago.


Talk to the student outside of class.

Use campus resources.

Talk to the student outside of class.

If a student seems particularly emotional, you might want to pull him or her aside after class to ask about the situation. It is possible that you have – through no fault of your own – touched on a topic in class that is an emotional trigger for that student. Simply taking the student aside, expressing concern, and explaining what your intentions were and were not can help to defuse the situation and can also help the student differentiate personal reactions from intellectual analysis.

Use campus resources.

Inappropriate or bizarre behavior in class, including excessive emotions, can sometimes indicate larger and more serious problems for the student. If a student’s behavior is worrying you, you might want to seek advice from campus resources before talking to the student one on one. For example, you might want to seek advice from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or contact the Dean of Student Affairs or the student’s adviser to see if the student in question is exhibiting similar patterns in other classes.

This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person!