Uncivil Behaviour in Higher Education (Nursing) – Students Perceptions



Author(s) Deborah Rowberry


Recently the Department saw evidence of uncivil behaviour in some students. The results of which were affecting students wellbeing, their academic work and their desire to stay on the course. A series of meetings were held to ascertain the problems and to elicit consent. The meetings resulted in a set of Group Behaviours being drawn up by the group themselves and disseminated to them an all staff that taught them, outlining what can be expected of them and what they expect in return. Malone (2014) reiterates that adults learn differently to children, that they are self-directed, self-motivated, learn by linking new knowledge to old and like to have independence and control over their own learning. This opinion does not account for any uncivil behaviour seen by faculty which is well documented in the literature. Clarke (2008) had previously looked at the emerging problem of incivility and uncivil behaviour in nursing students. However, the perception of the problem can be subjective. Interestingly, students perceive faculty to play a large part in inciting incivility. The work was completed and on-going evaluation of the student group continues.


Session Outcomes: 1. To highlight Uncivil Behaviour in Higher Education and talk about a topic that is usually kept behind the scenes. (In order that we may begin to eradicate some behaviours before they become norm in student culture.) 2. To enhance an understanding that students dislike it as much as faculty. (To raise awareness that actually, the majority of students want this no more than we do as staff.) 3. To give an example of a replicable activity that goes someway to alleviating some behaviours. (In order that we may be aware of all avenues and aspects of teaching and learning that work towards achieving excellence.) The session would consist of a presentation with the following aspects: 1. 0mins-5mins – Examples of uncivil behaviours and definitions. A brief outline of the topic, of the problems we faced particularly and the issues it was causing. Why I felt it was important as a member of staff that we addressed it head on and some of my findings. I aim to talk a little about why it is important to speak openly about this and not have it sit somewhere in the background and go ignored.This will be in the form of a presentation (ppt or Pecha Kucha) 2. 5-mins-10mins – Delegate Interaction – What examples of uncivil behaviour do you see? At this point I would like to the audience to think of and write examples of what they see with their own groups of students and the impact this has on other student learning, the environment and on their teaching. I would hope they will talk to each other and share ideas. I will offer paper and pens for them to note down their thoughts. I hope this interaction will give delegates ideas to take away to perhaps start to work on in their own department. 3. 10-mins-15mins – What can be done? I will explain what we did and why. I used a tried and tested model used many times in health care (particularly from my background working with Mid Staffs and more recently following the Andrews Report). From m initial research this had not been used in higher education with students. 4. 15mins-20mins Questions. Uncivil behaviour affects teaching and learning and can have a negative impact on both. By addressing this issue in some part I aim to highlight how severe it can be. To ensure we are aiming for excellence, it is a topic we need to openly address. I hope the session will positively contribute to the variety of the Conference and hope it adds something a little different. The session will share my experiences and that of my colleagues as well as some observed sessions to highlight areas we can address going forward. (Data was collected from an autoethnographic perspective over a period of three months). The topic is well researched in many countries and these studies have much to offer us. The group work and Group Behaviours can be replicated with any student group. The findings of this project are still being evaluated but no students left the course following these problems despite many indicating they felt that low that they wanted to. The group still has some problems that they are working on but these are talked about more readily and openly and with much more self awareness than previously.

Key Words

Uncivil behaviour, Higher Education

Key Messages

That the majority of students want to see some control of this behaviour(s) as much as faculty. Uncivil Behaviour is not specific to Nursing students, it is common. That whilst, faculty at times, feel powerless to intervene, there are things we can do to give the responsibility back to the student and in doing so, stay on track for excellence in teaching and learning.


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