Van Brunt B and Scott Lewis W (eds) (2014) A Faculty Guide to Addressing Disruptive and Dangerous Behaviour, New York: Routledge
ISBN: 978 0 415 62828 0
It is essential to point out that this book is American. Although the extreme consequences of neglecting behavioural issues may not seem altogether relevant to a European readership (mass shootings and murders on University campuses) there are many useful pointers regarding the risks faced by vulnerable students.
Vignettes and anecdotes do, in the first section, demonstrate a need for proactive methods. The reader is left in no doubt that pre-emptive strategies are required to prevent extreme actions being taken by students. This includes in and out of the classroom. Some very obvious strategies are recommended – such as stay calm, display empathy, reinforce positive behaviours and lay out clear ground rules from the outset.
Despite this simplicity, the fictional and real examples are explained through reference to literature and research, particularly when providing quasi-psychological profiles of miscreants. The vulnerability of students is interesting, particularly as different types and groups are examined; distance learners, non-traditional and mature students. I was intrigued to know why and how ‘student types’ were grouped. There is no explanation why ‘millennial and African American students are treated as a single group in chapter 7, nor why international and gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-sexual students were clustered together. These apparently random clusters prevented me from seeking stereo-typing, but did leave me confused.
Of greatest interest were examples of how poor behaviour can, in some cases, escalate, and therefore some of the early signs are indeed helpful. The cases presented do show that no two instances should lead to generalisations. All cases are individual. In addition, I was pleased that it is accepted that academic staff play a crucial role in spotting vulnerable students, but beyond that they are encouraged to refer to experts – but with sensitivity. This included recognising the signs of students with potential alcohol problems, eating disorders, those suffering from mild problems associated with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Although in an American context reference is made to the legal position in terms of contacting families and friends if isolation and loneliness appear to be leading to alienation and anger. Although the legal position cannot be followed in other countries, the chapter does at least raise issues that need to be taken into account
Actual classroom management strategies are also recommended – when placing students in work or task groups, the teacher should be sensitive of students’ needs and backgrounds. At times it is difficult to recommend this text in that the incidents and advice are so culturally bound. If the reader, however is able to cut through some of the very informal (and even colloquial language) as well as the American context, some important issues worthy of consideration do emerge. These will need translating into the reader’s own national and local context. The book may provide an insight to university life in the USA and also may help planners of training in behaviour management with some ideas and a framework for consideration. It certainly does not provide transferrable solutions, and indeed many of the problems cannot be seen as representative of life away from the USA.
Professor Kit Field
University of Wolverhampton