Lecturers forced to use red cards on rowdy students

Academics turn to primary school tactics to quash bad behaviour, study finds

Source: Alamy

Seeing red: lecturers have resorted to a technique used in primary schools

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”.


Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Featured Jobs

Academic Partnership Manager LONDON SOUTH BANK UNIVERSITY

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Universities to scale back liberal arts and social science courses

  • David Humphries illustration (24 September 2015)

A Russell Group tagline rap is further proof that we need to reform the academy’s approach, argues Philip Moriarty

  • World University Rankings

US continues to lose its grip as institutions in Europe up their game

  • World University Rankings 2015-2016 methodology

Change for the better: fuelled by more comprehensive data, the 2015-2016 rankings probe deeper than ever

Inspired by previous movement in 1960s, PhD students say that ‘science is not neutral’ and urge scientists to confront their assumptions