Incivility in Higher Education

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Shirley M. Newberry, PhD, RN
Department of Nursing, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, LaCrosee, WI
Ana Schaper, PhD
Department of Nursing, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, La Crosse, WI

Learning Objective 1: to describe the problem of incivility in nursing education in the U.S

Learning Objective 2: to list the strengths and limitation of using the Incivility in Higher Education Scale

Purpose: Incivility in higher education is a growing problem in the U.S.  Faculty's and students’ past experiences inform their interactions within the Nursing classroom. In order to understand the perceptions that contribute to incivility within nursing education, the present study aims to: 1) characterize nursing students' perception of uncivil behaviors in higher education, prior to entering a school of nursing, and 2) compare nursing student and faculty reports of incivility in the classroom.  

Methods: Nursing faculty (n=11) from the Western Campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison completed the Incivility in Higher Education (IHE) scale prior to beginning the 2011-2012 school year. Students (n=25) completed the IHE scale during orientation to the School of Nursing. Focus groups of faculty and students were held to discuss the data.  

Results: Students and faculty indicated that incivility in higher education was a moderate problem. Both cohorts reported low levels of faculty incivility on an itemized list of behaviors. Both cohorts also agreed that students more frequently engaged in the listed ‘uncivil’ behaviors.  However, when asked generally whom was more likely to engage in uncivil behavior, students reported that faculty and students were equally implicated in the problem. Both cohorts reported that faculty’s failure to address disruptive behaviors as they occur contributes to the problem. Students reported that, while they felt comfortable addressing uncivil faculty behavior with the faculty member involved, they would not be willing to confront uncivil behavior with a peer.    

Conclusion: The conflicting results of this study regarding students’ perception of uncivil faculty behaviors point to the need to correctly identify behaviors of concern in the classroom. Both cohorts must consciously and constructively engage in the cultivation of civility in nursing education. Constructive conflict engagement skill development has a central role in achieving this goal.