Policing in the Classroom

cat watching from behind a sheer curtain, hiding poorly

In contrast to surveillance in the classroom, policing is a more overt practice of observing learner behaviors and evaluating them against a set of culturally accepted norms. The practice of policing in the classroom may fail to take into account specific learner needs and discount learners as a whole, failing to recognize learners as complex people who exist outside the classroom. This can have an adverse effect where instructors design for the classroom while neglecting to accommodate the invisiblized aspects of a learners experience. Additionally, a focus on ‘correcting’ student behavior with punitive measures rather than on course outcomes, deemphasizes learning in the classroom in favour of producing disciplined subjects

In this section, we seek to enable course instructors/facilitators to critically evaluate the types of behaviors that are observed, enforced, and/or evaluated in the classroom. For example, we explore policies in the classroom that police the use of technology and attendance in an effort to interrogate their intended purpose, but with a pointed interest in their inadvertent impact within an educational system buttressed on policing, discipline, and control. Policing in the classroom can take on racialized biases with instructors honing in on Black and Brown learners of colour through the enforcement of hegemonic language.

Rectifying Traditional Policing

The activity below helps course designers Identify the behaviors that are being measured and observed and critically reflect on their alignment with learning as opposed to the corporate education system.


Review a syllabus you have authored in the past and consider the policies you have included such as:

  • attendance
  • use of technology (cell phone/laptop)
  • number of times and/or time spent accessing the Learning Management System (LMS)
  • plagiarism
  • etc.

Critically assess each of these policies together with the learners.


Reflect on how these policies truly contribute to the course and revise course policy document to reflect the needs of the instructor/facilitator and the learners.

List of Readings