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Disciplinary Action: Keeping It Professional!

Disciplinary Action: Keep It Professional!
Disciplinary Action: Keep It Professional!

Every now and then you’ll find yourself in a position where you’ll need to address unacceptable behavior on the part of one of your students. Some of these behaviors include: cheating, plagiarism, sleeping in class, lying, being disrespectful, disruptive, or abusive. Whichever the case may be, it is always disappointing when students engage in these types of behaviors, and at times, you may feel frustrated, angry, or even helpless.  At times like these, it is important to remember that an improper behavior on the part of your student, does not warrant an in-kind retaliatory response on your part.

I’m not saying you should ignore the behavior, on the contrary. I’m a strong advocate for addressing unacceptable behavior immediately. What I am saying is that your personal feelings towards your student’s behavior should not be the basis for your response. It will be difficult in the beginning to try to be completely impartial and to remain emotionally detached from the situation, but it gets easier with time and practice.


I am always disappointed when my students do something that warrants disciplinary action, but I don’t take it personally.

So, how do you deal with disciplinary problems?

 Here are 5 tips that will help:

 #1. School Policy:

Your school will most likely already have a procedure in place for addressing student misconduct, so familiarize yourself with it and follow it!

#2. Class Policy:

Incorporate your school’s conduct or misconduct policies into your syllabus as well as any additional policies and student expectations that you feel are necessary in your class. It’s your class, so you get to set the rules as long as they do not violate school policy or any laws. You cannot hold students accountable if you do not communicate your expectations and policies with them. My syllabus includes policies or expectations on:

  • disruptive behavior
  • profanity
  • disrespect
  • sleeping
  • cell phones
  • tardiness
  • absenteeism
  • cheating and plagiarism
  • unacceptable grooming standards.

Your policy should define the inappropriate behavior and include a consequence for it.

#3. Nip it!:

When a student violates any policy that merits disciplinary action, address it immediately! DO NOT ignore it as that will most likely cause the problem to perpetuate and escalate.

#4. Be Professional:

When speaking with a student about their misconduct, maintain your composure. Speak with them privately and focus on the behavior and the policy that it violated as well as the consequence. Do not personalize the situation and attack or question the student’s character. This will only make matters worse as they will get defensive and you will come across as being cruel and unprofessional. Document the encounter and the outcome. If you do not have any experience handling disciplinary issues or poor performance, or you are simply uncomfortable with it, I would recommend reading The One Minute Manager by Dr. Ken Blanchard and using the format provided in the book (if it is appropriate to your situation). It will teach you a quick and simple way of addressing performance issues. I’ve personally used the techniques in the book, in both the corporate world and academia and the techniques work!

#5. Forgive and forget!:

Once the situation has been addressed, do not hold a student’s misconduct against them and use it to judge future behavior or effort. That would be unfair and possibly unethical.

Addressing student behavioral issues are never fun or easy, but you as a faculty member need to learn how to manage these problems in an efficient and fair manner.  Speak with your department chair, dean,  or faculty mentor, and have them guide you through the process the first few times.

Well, I hope you found this post useful. If you did, I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word by sharing this with friends or colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or any other social media platform you use. Thank you!

Dr. Fawaz Al-Malood

Dr. Fawaz Al-Malood is a college administrator, author, blogger, YouTuber, and podcaster. He holds a doctorate in education management from the University of South Africa, a MBA from Western Governors University, a MS in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University, a bachelors in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Administration, and a Swiss Diploma in Hotel Management from the Hotel Institute Montreux. He is the Founder of a blog dedicated to sharing successful strategies on: teaching, productivity, and professional development for college educators.