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Difficult Behaviors in the Classroom

Source: Honolulu Community College,

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



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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 sometimes undermine his or her own position.

  • Ignore behavior.

  • Talk to him or her privately during a break.

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