Effective learning takes place in an environment that is more conducive for both the teacher and the students. But the actions and/or actions of students, teachers and other factors sometimes breed an environment that is not suitable for effective teaching and learning within the classroom. In light of this, it is necessary for us to understand why students misbehave in our classrooms. This will help us improve our classroom management techniques.

Student misbehavior can be referred to as the actions and inactions of students that distract the learning continuum in the classroom. Most often these behaviors are negative attitudes such as students’ failure to participate in activities, disrespect, excessive sociability, partial or negated participation, etc. I believe that students misbehave because of student, teacher, and environment/social factors.

Student and teacher behaviors, as well as other environmental or societal issues, play an important role in effective learning in our classrooms. When any of these is negated, then achieving effective learning will be challenging for all stakeholders of education.

What is student misbehavior?

To move forward, I think it is proper for you to understand the meaning of student misbehavior. This is necessary for you when putting your students’ behavior into context.

Student misbehavior can be defined as a student’s action or interaction that disrupts or distracts the flow of the learning processes. That is any behavior that is inappropriate in the classroom can be termed as students’ misbehavior.

It is worthy to note that the issue of misbehavior is relative or a matter of perspective. This means that it depends on how you perceive what appropriate behavior is. Thus, what is misbehavior to you may be an appropriate behavior to another person.

For example, what is considered misbehavior may largely depend on your model of classroom management. Thus, an interventionists perspective of misbehavior may be totally different from a noninterventionists point of view.

Also, your students are different individuals and therefore have different personalities and backgrounds. With this, the concept of misbehavior may vary greatly among them. For instance, students from different cultural backgrounds will have different perspectives on misbehavior.

From the above, it is extremely important for you to clearly and adequately define standards of behavior in your classroom. This is the first thing for every teacher to do in his/her class.

Some Cases of Student Misbehavior

First, let’s consider the example below:

Mr. Fred is a grade seven English language teacher in a private school in Turkey. His Friday lessons start in the morning between 8:40am-9: 20 am. He is always punctual in his lessons.

Levant is a member of Mr. Fred’s class. He always comes to school late. He is always late to enter the classroom. When entering the class, Levant drags his feet on the ground producing a disrupting noise in the class.

One day during Levant’s grand entry into the classroom, one of his friends shouted: “stop what you are doing!” Hearing this, Levant rushed towards that girl trying to hit her but his friends held them and stopped him.

This never seems to be the last from Levant. Now, Mr. Fred tried to continue his lesson and asked Levant to bring out his homework. He replied, ‘I didn’t do it’ Mr. Fred asked, ‘why?’ Levant said, “nothing.” Mr. Fred exclaimed, “that is a zero.” Levant yelled, “I am not a machine; we have plenty of homework from other teachers too.”

Mr. Fred continued his lesson. For about 10 minutes later, Levant started humming to himself. Mr. Fred stood in front of the class and shouted, “stop making noise, Levant” and continued his lesson.

Levant stopped humming for a short while and started again. Mr. Fred responded by shouting “stop the noise” and continue to answer another student’s question.

This continued between Mr. Fred and Levant until the end of the lesson. And this is how Levant has been behaving in Mr. Fred’s class. Mr. Fred is frustrated and is looking for solutions to this behavior. What do you think are some of the issues that account for the behavior of Levant? Leave your answers in the comment section below.

Reasons Why Students Misbehave in Your Class

There are so many reasons why students misbehave in class. These are often due to the following factors: a) student (b) teacher, and (c) environmental/societal factors. These factors are discussed in detail below:

Student Factors

Student factors are those emanating from the student and his/her personality. Some of these factors are;

1. Impulsivity: This is a personality factor that makes the student react quickly to actions without much prior thought. That is, when the student faces a situation, he/she spends less time thinking through it before putting up responsive behavior.

This means the more prone students are to react quickly to issues without thinking through it, the more they are likely to misbehave in class. Thus, they are less likely to control themselves in situations.

Impulsivity is mostly caused by psychological disorders such as Disruptive Behavior Disorder (DBD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention/Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc. It is, however, important to note that not all behavioral impulsiveness is as a result of psychological disorder.

2. Personal skill deficiency: This happens when the student lacks certain skills that will help him/her cope with the classroom environment and/or other students. For instance, when students lack personal skills such as empathy, knowledge of desired social behavior, self-discipline, etc., they are more likely to misbehave in the classroom.

3. Belief deficiency: The beliefs of students sometimes lead them to misbehave in the classroom. These misbehaviors are classified here. Example, some students believe that some courses/subjects are not important in school and because of that, they tend to put behaviors that are disruptive against teachers of those courses. Misbehavior antecedents such as that are considered a belief deficiency.

Teacher factors

These are the factors that emanate from the actions and/or inactions of the teacher that result in students’ misbehavior. They are explained in details below;

1. Failure to teach effectively: I have mentioned earlier in my previous articles that effective classroom management doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Of course, you have to put in place a classroom setting that is conducive for your students to achieve their educational and emotional needs.

Failure to do so will result in the chaos that will impede all your teaching and learning efforts. One of the ways to promote an environment that is suitable for learning is for you to teach effectively.

Example, if you don’t plan your lessons adequately you will lose the expert power you exercise over your students. This will reduce your control and influence over happenings in your classroom.

For instance, if you don’t have extra materials to engage students who are quick to finish their activities, they may get space to distract the class or their colleagues. But if you plan to teach effectively, you will be able to find a way to engage those students who will likely finish their activities quickly.

2. Inaccurate expectations: First, I have come across colleagues who just expect the student to accept blindly all that they are saying. With this, some teachers are quick to blame external factors like the parents of students for their children’s misbehavior. This is inaccurate. Why?

Because this prevents you from actively thinking of a solution to your students’ behavior. It also degrades your relationships with students’ parents who otherwise could be your partners in finding solutions to students’ misbehavior.

Second, your aim is to train your students to become strong adults. But how do they become strong adults? Most teachers’ perceptions of this question are wrong. This is because strong adults don’t accept all that people tell them.

Students develop this behavior in their childhood. Thus, they will always try to defend and stand for all that they believe in.

So, if you think your students are deliberately trying to frustrate you by not listening to you or standing for what they believe, you will lose control of yourself and your classroom. Now, the onus lies on you to work hard to find ways of managing these behaviors effectively without squelching your students’ development processes.

3. Inaccurate judgment: I think you want your students to grow to become smart, well-adjusted, and strong. Thus, you want them to become independent adults who can think and make decisions for themselves. But you have to understand that these qualities are developed in the early years of the student.

So, be careful not to exercise wrong judgment on your students’ behavior. Example, don’t always scold your students for expressing their own will. Else, you will squelch their strong will to become strong adults.

Also, don’t punish your student for an initial refusal or reluctance to do what you have asked him/her to do. This is because they might end up making the right choice of behavior if you insist on them.

Finally, if your student doesn’t listen to you it doesn’t mean you have failed as a teacher. To be successful you only have to teach appropriate/proper consequence. Thus, you are not to force your students to listen to you but you are going to teach them the consequences of listening versus not listening to you.

Therefore, your job is to determine beforehand the consequences for each set of behavior in the classroom. This will guide your students in their behavior. If you fail to do so you will likely lose the battle in the classroom. Also, if you exercise wrong judgment and punish your students for everything they will rebel and that will be more frustrating for you.

Environmental/Societal Factors

These are factors that are societal in nature but promotes students’ misbehavior in the classroom. Below are some of these factors:

1. Family: Your students family set up affects their behavior in school. This could be a reason why one of your students will misbehave in the classroom. For example, a student from a broken home is likely to misbehave more than any student whose parents are still together. Also, students from awful and poor upbringing are likely to several problems that will make them misbehave in the classroom.

So, your knowledge of all these should help you understand your students and to manage their behavior appropriately.

2. Sociability: The desire of your students to interact with others may lead them to misbehave. This may occur due to peer pressure and/or a desire to impress others. With this, students are more interested in their friends such that they will choose to misbehave. Also, due to their interactions with others during the break time, their communication will continue into the classroom.

So, understanding this will help you put in place adequate steps to limit the tendencies of this factor.

3. Other responsibilities/works: If your students have other responsibilities to carry out outside school, it may become a reason for their misbehavior. Thus, these students will have other things to worry about and this may limit the attention they give to classroom activities and tasks.

For example, heavy work schedule, relationships and/or financial problems may force your students to misbehave. These responsibilities will put much pressure on students to misbehave.

Therefore, you need to understand and be aware of these behavioral tendencies in order to help your students to cope with the classroom environment.

How to Deal with Student Misbehavior

I think it is possible to prevent student misbehavior in the classroom. This can be done through the following:

  1. You can effectively reduce student misbehavior by giving effective single-action commands.
  2. If you are capable of giving effective warnings, you will effectively prevent student misbehavior.
  3. There is no classroom without flare-ups and tantrums, so your ability to handle them will reduce misbehavior significantly.
  4. Instituting behavioral contracts is an effective way to help you improve your management of behavioral problems.
  5. Your ability to manage and reduce misbehavior will highly be dependent on your ability to manage transitions effectively.
  6. You will also have to discourage interruptions effectively.
  7. Improved behavior in out-of-class settings
  8. Develop an effective homework routine.

I will discuss how to achieve all the above in my subsequent articles. So, make sure to follow me and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter.


It is clear from the above that several factors account for the misbehavior of students in the classroom. These factors could emanate from the actions and/or inactions of students, teachers as well as external factors.

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