Promoting a Civil Learning Environment

In this module, faculty learn how to work with students to set expectations for a civil learning environment. In addition, the module helps faculty address low-, mid-, and high-level disruptions to the learning environment.

To satisfy the module requirements, practicing faculty must apply at least one technique, such as writing policies regarding classroom civility, writing classroom norms with students, or using appropriate methods to respond to student behaviors.

This module is one of seven modules under ACUE’s unit on Establishing a Productive Learning Environment.

Advising Subject Matter Experts

Barbara Frey
Instructional Design Manager
Pitt Online


Kristen Knepp
Postdoctoral Psychology Resident
Cranberry Psychological Center


Linda Nilson
Founding Director, Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation
Clemson University

Module References

Alberts, H. C., Hazen, H. D., & Theobald, R. B. (2010). Classroom incivilities: The challenge of interactions between college students and instructors in the US. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 34, 439–462.

Amada, G. (1992). Coping with the disruptive college student: A practical model. Journal of American College Health, 40, 203–215.

American Psychological Association. (2011). The state of mental health on college campuses:
A growing crisis. Retrieved from

Appleby, D. (1990). Faculty and student perceptions of irritating behaviors in the college classroom. Journal of Staff, Program, and Organization Development, 8, 41–46.

Bayer, A. E. (2004). Promulgating statements of student rights and responsibilities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2004(99), 77–87.

Black, L. J., Wygonik, M. L., & Frey, B. A. (2011). Faculty-preferred strategies to promote a positive classroom environment. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 22(2), 109–134.

Boice, R. (1998). Classroom incivilities. In K. A. Feldman & M. B. Paulson (Eds.), Teaching and learning in the college classroom (2nd ed., pp. 347–369). Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster.

Braxton, J. M., Bayer, A. E., and Noseworthy, J. A. (2004). The influence of teaching norm violations on the welfare of students as clients of college teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2004(99), 41–46.

Buttner, E. H. (2004). How do we “dis” students?: A model of (dis)respectful business instructor behavior. Journal of Management Education, 28, 319–334.

Canter, L. (2009). Assertive discipline: Positive behavior management for today’s classroom (4th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Carbone, E. (1999). Students behaving badly in large classes. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 77, 35–43.

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation. (n.d.). Address problematic student behavior. Retrieved from

Davis. B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Deering, C. D. (2011). Managing disruptive behaviour in the classroom. College Quarterly, 14(3).

DiClementi, J. D., & Handelsman, M. M. (2005). Empowering students: Class-generated course rules. Teaching of Psychology, 32, 18–21.

Knepp, K. A. F. (2012). Understanding student and faculty incivility in higher education. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 12(1), 32–45.

Kyle, P. B., & Rogien, L. R. (2004). Opportunities and options in classroom management. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Nilson, L. B. (in press). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Nilson, L. B., & Jackson, N. S. (2004). Combating classroom misconduct (incivility) with bills of rights. Proceedings of the 4th Conference of the International Consortium for Educational Development. Ottawa, ON, Canada.

Paff, L. (2015, September 28). Why policies fail to promote better learning decisions. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from

Sorcinelli, M. D. (1994). Dealing with troublesome behaviors in the classroom. In K. W. Prichard & R. M. Sawyer (Eds.), Handbook of college teaching: Theory and applications (pp. 365–373). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Wilson, G. L. (2005). Groups in context: Leadership and participation in small groups (7th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.