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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Inexperienced, female professors hit with more classroom incivility, study finds

Students may think their sly under-the-desk texting skills are going unnoticed, but Dr. Rod Goodyear, a professor at the School of Education at the University of the Redlands, is keeping track of incidences of classroom incivility.

In his study findings, Goodyear along with University of the Redlands School of Education professors Pauline Reynolds and Janee Both Gragg, recorded certain professors – such as gender, age and experience – who face the brunt of student rudeness. After surveying over 330 professors from colleges and universities nationwide, 91 percent of female professors reported incidences compared to 76 percent of male professors.

Inexperienced lecturers also reported higher occasions of student disruption.

“Our intent was to get a sense of what behaviors were being exhibited,” Goodyear said in an e-mail interview.

Incivility in the study was defined as texting, using the computer for activities such as Facebook or movies, talking to neighbors, sleeping and even talking back to professors.

This study served as an initial, descriptive report. Further research is needed to draw any conclusions.

“What this did not tell us was how much of this is going on,” Goodyear said. “So one next step will be to get an estimate of the prevalence of each type of behavior. Another ‘next step’ would be to look at strategies professors use to manage incivilities.”

Dr. Paul Salitsky, UCD exercise biology lecturer with an emphasis on sport, exercise and motor learning, said differences in student behavior based on a professor’s gender or teaching experience may be a cultural problem, learned through socialization.

“Sometimes there is a little more respect given to older, grey haired men,” Salitsky said, who used his coaching background to gain command of the classroom when he was a first-time lecturer. “It’s in our culture. Generally speaking, people are more intimated by males. There is a cultural bias in the back of people’s heads.”

Dr. Christi Bamford is a female UCD psychology lecturer at 34 years old. When she taught her first class at the University of Georgia she was only 23 years old. She dealt with one incident where a student yelled out in class, but since teaching at UCD she has not encountered blatant disrespect.

“Freshmen tend to be talkative in class, reading the newspaper,” Bamford said. “They feel like have to come to class. But I’ve learned to pay attention over the years to the bulk of students that are respectful, mature good students. It is the subset that sticks out and causes problem.”

Bamford emphasized confidence as a tool to deter students with poor classroom etiquette, especially toward new lecturers and professors.

UCD junior English major Emily Goyins said she noticed classroom rudeness in an honors seminar with guest lecturers.

“Some of the older professors knew how to command a classroom,” Goyins said, but for many of the younger speakers, students were disengaged. “When people next to me are passing notes or something, it’s like a high school class.”

Sophomore biological sciences major Jayde Chang said in her less engaging classes, such as her physics lab, students are constantly texting or talking.

“I just tune them out,” she said. “Some students complain about it because they get distracted.”

SASHA LEKACH can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


  1. Without reading the study I can’t really criticize it, but I might point out some possible alternative explanations. Since this appears to rely on instructor self-reporting, perhaps younger or female instructors are just better at noticing texting and Facebook than old men. It’s also possible that more female or younger instructors get stuck with more intro classes, presumably in larger lecture halls where students feel more anonymous and willing to commit acts of “incivility.” I’m curious as to how they controlled for such. I think there may also be an effect related to major. I remember far more rude texters in Communication classes than say a Geology lecture even in a similar sized lecture hall with male instructors of similar age.


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