Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Donna Talbot

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Suzie Nagel


Disruptive behavior, incivility, faculty perceptions, undergraduate behavior


Behavioral review teams on university campuses have become the standard since the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. An institutional assumption is that faculty members will make referrals to these specialized teams when encountering disruptive students within their classrooms. Unknown is what actions faculty members actually take when faced with disruptive students in the classroom. This phenomenological study captures the experiences of faculty members with disruptive undergraduate students in face-to-face university classroom or laboratories.

All of the participants in the study described experiences with disruptive undergraduate students. Three female and three male faculty members, split evenly between tenured/tenure track and non-tenure track, participated in this study. The participants represented three different universities in central and west Michigan.

Disruptive student behavior does not automatically result in referral to behavioral review teams. Using the dual lenses of attribution theory and symbolic interaction theory themes emerged that describe and interpret the lived experiences of the faculty members. These emergent themes involved pervasiveness of disruptive behavior, feeling of powerlessness and fatalistic thinking from the faculty, collegial support, classroom influences, emotional costs, and perceptions of disruptions.

Disruptive student behavior is a constant issue in postsecondary settings that disrupts the educational environment resulting in a variety of responses by faculty. Additional research in this area needs to continue to identify dynamics surrounding disruptive behavior and ways to prevent it from snowballing. A greater understanding of faculty experiences aids departments and institutions, giving faculty members a voice and an opportunity to be empowered in their own classrooms.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access