Lecturers forced to use red cards on rowdy students
Academics turn to primary school tactics to quash bad behaviour, study finds
Students’ in-class behaviour is sometimes so bad that lecturers are resorting to a red and yellow card warning system – a technique sometimes used by primary schoolteachers.
Undergraduates would “push the teacher as much as they could” so lecturers were having to police their behaviour in ways “you wouldn’t even expect in secondary school”, according to a study of “laddism” among sports science students.
Carolyn Jackson, a professor in the department of educational research at Lancaster University, observed lecturers and interviewed students and academics at a large post-1992 institution in the south of England between 2011 and 2013.
“Laddish” behaviour included “talking and generally being loud (which disrupted classes); being a joker; throwing stuff; arriving late; and being rude and disrespectful to lecturers”, according to her paper, “ ‘Lad Culture’ and Learning in Higher Education”.
“Some lecturers told alarming stories of aggressive and very antagonistic confrontations between lecturers and male students,” it adds.
Presenting her paper at the annual conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education in Newport, Wales, in December, Professor Jackson said lecturers had to use “shocking” behaviour management techniques, such as the card system, something one “wouldn’t even expect in secondary school”.
One student, Pete, described how the lads in his first year would indulge in “loudness, messing about, giggling, laughing in classes and trying to get away with stuff and push the teacher as much as they could”.
Other students would chastise the “lads” for their behaviour, Professor Jackson’s research found. One lecturer, John, recalled a “very strong lass” turning to the lads and saying: “will you shut the fuck up, I’m trying to learn”.
“And they did…peer pressure gets them a lot more because suddenly they’re made to look fools by a girl,” the lecturer said.
Another lecturer said the card system was used “because football students understand this rule very well”, Professor Jackson recalled.
But the paper suggested that after the first year, the most disruptive students had been “weeded out” as many failed their first-year exams.
Last year the National Union of Students published That’s What She Said, a report on women’s experience of “lad culture” in universities, which documented boorish, heavy drinking, misogynist and homophobic behaviour by male students.
However, Professor Jackson’s research found almost no evidence of sexual harassment or “rape-supportive attitudes” by lads, and homophobia was “rarely mentioned”.
Article originally published as: ‘Shut up - I’m trying to learn’ (2 January 2014)