Difficult Behaviors

College of Southern Idaho Human Resources Department Website

Difficult Behaviors in the Classroom
DIFFICULT BEHAVIORS IN THE CLASSROOM

Borrowed with permission from Honolulu Community College


BEHAVIOR:
Rambling -- wandering around and off the subject. Using far-fetched examples or analogies.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Refocus attention by restating relevant point.
  • Direct questions to group that is back on the subject
  • Ask how topic relates to current topic being discussed.
  • Use visual aids, begin to write on board, turn on overhead projector.
  • Say: "Would you summarize your main point please?" or "Are you asking...?"

BEHAVIOR:
Shyness or Silence -- lack of participation.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Change teaching strategies from group discussion to individual written exercises or a videotape
  • Give strong positive reinforcement for any contribution.
  • Involve by directly asking him/her a question.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Appoint to be small group leader.

BEHAVIOR:
Talkativeness -- knowing everything, manipulation, chronic whining.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Acknowledge comments made.
  • Give limited time to express viewpoint or feelings, and then move on.
  • Make eye contact with another participant and move toward that person.
  • Give the person individual attention during breaks.
  • Say: "That's an interesting point. Now let's see what other other people think."

BEHAVIOR:
Sharpshooting -- trying to shoot you down or trip you up.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Admit that you do not know the answer and redirect the question the group or the individual who asked it.
  • Acknowledge that this is a joint learning experience.
  • Ignore the behavior.

BEHAVIOR:
Heckling/Arguing -- disagreeing with everything you say; making personal attacks.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Redirect question to group or supportive individuals.
  • Recognize participant's feelings and move one.
  • Acknowledge positive points.
  • Say: "I appreciate your comments, but I'd like to hear from others," or "It looks like we disagree."

BEHAVIOR:
Grandstanding -- getting caught up in one's own agenda or thoughts to the detriment of other learners.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Say: "You are entitled to your opinion, belief or feelings, but now it's time we moved on to the next subject," or "Can you restate that as a question?" or "We'd like to hear more about that if there is time after the presentation."

BEHAVIOR:
Overt Hostility/Resistance -- angry, belligerent, combative behavior.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Hostility can be a mask for fear. Reframe hostility as fear to depersonalize it.
  • Respond to fear, not hostility.
  • Remain calm and polite. Keep your temper in check.
  • Don't disagree, but build on or around what has been said.
  • Move closer to the hostile person, maintain eye contact.
  • Always allow him or her a way to gracefully retreat from the confrontation.
  • Say: "You seem really angry. Does anyone else feel this way?" Solicit peer pressure.
  • Do not accept the premise or underlying assumption, if it is false or prejudicial, e.g., "If by "queer" you mean homosexual..."
  • Allow individual to solve the problem being addressed. He or she may not be able to offer solutions and will sometime undermine his or her own position.
  • Ignore behavior.
  • Talk to him or her privately during a break.
  • As a last resort, privately ask the individual to leave class for the good of the group.

BEHAVIOR:
Griping -- maybe legitimate complaining.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Point out that we can't change policy here.
  • Validate his/her point.
  • Indicate you'll discuss the problem with the participant privately.
  • Indicate time pressure.

BEHAVIOR:
Side Conversations -- may be related to subject or personal. Distracts group members and you.

POSSIBLE RESPONSES:

  • Don't embarrass talkers.
  • Ask their opinion on topic being discussed.
  • Ask talkers if they would like to share their ideas.
  • Casually move toward those talking.
  • Make eye contact with them.
  • Comment on the group (but don't look at them "one-at-a-time").
  • Standing near the talkers, ask a near-by participant a question so that the new discussion is near the talkers.
  • As a last resort, stop and wait.

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