While researching this post, I happened upon some great information from the California Nurses Association that provides insightful suggestions for dealing with a variety of student behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at these behaviors that undoubtedly we’ve all run into at one time or another. Each of these presents its own unique challenges that could lead to some degree of disruption during training.

raiseThe Rambler – Ramblers are easy to recognize as they tend to wander off topic frequently and find it difficult to focus in on the specific topic being discussed. To refocus the rambler, try restating the relevant points; ask how the point the rambler is trying to make relates to the topic being discussed; or direct questions to the rest of the students who have remained on topic.

The Sharpshooter – Sharpshooters are the students who try to shoot us down or try to trip us up. Though it can be difficult, it’s probably best to simply ignore the behavior rather than engage in a drawn out discussion over something that likely has little relevance to the topic. Another effective technique is to redirect the question back to the group to initiate a discussion. In the end, it’s OK that we don’t know the answer to every question, and in these instances we can research the question –if it is relevant to our discussion – to find the answer.

The Heckler – Hecklers are students who tend to disagree with everything. Even when they don’t verbalize their feelings, their body language is a dead giveaway that they see things in an entirely different light. Arguing with hecklers only makes things worse and this may incite the ire in other students, so avoid being drawn into an argument. This is another situation that tossing the comments back to the group may be our best way to handle the heckler. Hopefully, the group will debate the comments amongst themselves while we stand back and play referee and work to direct the debate toward its proper conclusion. If the heckler has some positive points in his argument, point these out. It might also be helpful to offer to discuss things further with the heckler at a break. In the end, though, it may necessary to “agree to disagree”, so we can move on with class.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, students are ultimately responsible for their own behavior during training, however, we have a job to do and managing issues that might arise falls to us. Using the tips discussed above may just make handling these issues a bit easier.

jeffLook for some additional tips on student behavior in my next post, but until then, be sure to share your suggestions about handling the Rambler, the Sharpshooter and the Heckler with your fellow instructors by using the “Click here to write comments” button below.

Jeff Myers, Vice President – HSI

Source: California Nurses Association, AIDS Train the Trainer Program for Health Care Providers (1988)

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