O'Connell Advanced Training Solutions

flexibles und individuelles Englischtraining in Sachsen

7 Golden Rules for Dealing with Disruption in the Training Room

I once had a learner who crushed chalk and sniffed it in class. I had a learner who spent the first half of a lesson sucking on a dummy, looking for attention. I had a student screw up a piece of paper - an exercise - and toss it on the floor. I’ve had grimaces. Whispers. Then there have been the talkers - the learner who knew more about Australia than me (iiiiinterestiiing…), the learner who dominated discussion and talked over others, the one who used a training session to shamelessly advertise his business (selling used cars) and one learner took every opportunity to complain about her working day, boss and colleagues. And mobile phone use (making calls, taking calls, sending messages, faffing around on Facebook etc).

Some might argue that any interaction is a good one, but I disagree.

So the question is raised: how do you maintain flexibility whilst keeping your training session on track and meeting your learning goals?

Often it’s a snap decision, an instinct, a feeling you have for the group, the session, the goals and the individual disruptive learner. This is an instinct borne from experience and training, sometimes trial and error. My advice to all trainers is to remember these golden rules:

  1. You are not their parent.
    As much as you sometimes feel you are (ref. dummy-sucking learner and the chalk sniffer), you’re not. You’re a professional trainer tasked with undertaking a training session, your learners are adults and they ought to behave like it. Sometimes they may need a gentle reminder of that. Oh, and probably best to remove all chalk from hand’s reach before commencing training.
  2. You are not their friend.
    Again, you and they may be friendly as pie, but you’re not friends. Keeping a professional distance while remaining warm and approachable keep you, your training session and your learners on track.
  3. Keep Calm
    Deep breaths. If you’re being driven up the wall but can’t leave the room (as in my case with the learner who knew more about Australia than me… and insisted on telling me I was wrong… grrr), take a mental step back. Look at your lesson notes, look out the window, write something critically important on the wall, but do. not. react. For example, do not call your father who is currently in Australia, put him on speaker phone and get him to disprove your learner while you sit back and smirk. Not a good look. Highly discouraged. Deep breaths, mental step back, move on.
  4. Stay Positive
    An extension of keeping calm, reminding yourself to stay positive and finding ways to keep the sunshine in your face and voice is a discipline, but well worth the effort. If you’re getting push-back on an exercise, remind your learner or learners of the benefits (to them) of completing the exercise, and when it’s been completed take the time to ask them for the benefits they fee they got from undertaking it. You could also take the opportunity to take any criticisms on board, thank your learners and let them know their criticisms have been taken on board and will feed in to a continuous improvement process.
  5. Adjust Your Volume
    To speak up or down? Where your class may be involved in a rowdy discussion, avoid the temptation to speak over them. Try instead to speak normally or even quietly, calmly, and get the session back on track. You’ll find that a quiet voice cuts through the hubbub rather remarkably. Give it a go in your next session. As an extension, you could start talking quietly to the learner closest to you, and watch what happens as other learners start trying to listen. Voila, the room is calm again.
  6. Maintain Energy - Move Around
    Never underestimate the power of movement, nor the power of your presence in the training room. Feeling the fidgets? Move around, activate your arms, be the actor a trainer needs to be. Assign short, sharp, snappy tasks to small groups with a wee deadline, “By the time I come back, let’s see if you can have found the solution to …”. You’re a conductor, a director. Now use that body.
  7. Stick With The Program
    If you have low-level disruption in the room, you may not need to go through the above steps. The appropriate response may simply be to continue training: if your learner is sending an SMS they may well be listening with half an ear and catch up in a moment, or you may find that simply saying their name to get their attention and then continuing with the program is sufficient. You know your learners and you’ll find your instinct is your best friend in dealing with low-level disruption in the training room.

These methods have been tried and tested in training rooms around the world. If that’s too vague for you, then I give you my personal guarantee that I have used these in my training rooms over the years and they have worked. It can be a matter of trial and error to find what works for you and your learners, but I advise you to try them, adjust as necessary, and try again. You’ll get it.

And please feed back and let me know how they’ve worked for you, and what other methods you use for dealing with disruptive behaviour in your training sessions (CBT, VET, ESL and more).