An exploratory mixed-methods study of student incivility in higher education classrooms


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background Within the United Kingdom media reports suggest that students and teachers are experiencing high levels of disruptive behaviours or ‘incivilities' (a term used in the literature from the USA) within higher education classrooms. There is however no published empirical UK based research that identifies the extent or severity of these claims. Furthermore, literature from the USA indicates that staff may be equally as responsible as students in instigating classroom incivility.
Aims The aim of this research was to explore the problematic issue of students' uncivil behaviour in higher education classrooms within a UK context. Specifically the prevalence, types and context of incivility were identified and the role that teachers play in instigating incivility was explored.
Method This exploratory study utilised a concurrent mixed-methods, multi-case study design. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected simultaneously within the same time frame utilising the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction in Higher Education (QTIHE) and semi-structured classroom observations.
Results Student incivility was prevalent to varying degrees in each of the cases included in this UK based study. Furthermore, a statistically significant negative correlation between the frequency of classroom incivility and student ratings of positive personal attributes and student-focused teaching is reported.
Conclusions This exploratory research has utilised a mixed-methods approach to investigate an issue that has raised concerns from students and teachers in UK higher education; that of classroom incivility. Results of the study are pertinent to higher education practitioners and provide recommendations for future practice and research.
Date of Award20 Apr 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorDAVID PUTWAIN (Director of Studies) & ANTHONY LIVERSIDGE (Supervisor)


  • incivility
  • student behavior
  • education

Cite this