The Attention Training Institute

Some Techniques to Deal With Disruptive Students ~ BY DR. ERNEST MASTRIA

Although students who display inappropriate behavior do suffer from chronic inattention as the source of this inappropriate behavior, an explanation alone will not be helpful to those instructors who must deal with these behaviors in class. Listed below are a few techniques that may prove helpful to contain inappropriate behaviors in students.
1. Know your students. While many students may display inattentive behaviors, disruptive students generally always display these behaviors and noticing them may give you an indication to expect disruptive behaviors and to be ready for them. These behaviors may include: inattention to direction, chatter with other students, poor eye contact, failure to respond with direct answers, dazing off in class, attention toward other items such as a phone, a paper on the desk, who is passing in the hallway, and other things rather than toward what is being presented, attention toward what other students are doing, etc.
2. Be aware of what is going on in your class. Prevention is always preferable to intervention. The best way to prevent disruptive behavior is to be aware of its potential before it manifests. A way to be aware of your student's behavior is to speak and teach them while facing them as a group. Frequently, it is when you are facing the board, looking to a book, or speaking to a few students that disruption takes place. Remember, a disruptive student is an angry student who feels badly about themselves so that deception will be a major behavioral characteristic. By facing your entire class while teaching, you will reduce the frequency of deceptive behaviors in the disruptive student. One way to get your student's attention is to tell them, as a group, "Pay attention, this is important" frequently. The statement will gain their attention and cut down on inattention and possible deceptive behavior.
3. Have your students understand that part of their participation grade will be impacted by their tendency to be disruptive or unprofessional. Disruptive or unprofessional behavior could be to such a degree as to warrant a failure grade for that student.
4. Model professional and appropriate behaviors for your class. Have them see themselves as capable of performing these behaviors. You may even have some of your students demonstrate for the class what you have taught. You might include your disruptive student(s) in this demonstration to show them that they, too, are capable. Remember to reward your student's professional behavior with praise.
5. Distraction is a wonderful technique to intervene on any unwanted behavior. Disruption usually escalates into a problem. If you hear chatter with others from your disruptive student or see any indication of a problem, distraction by asking a question pertaining to the lesson, asking students to go to a specific page, or any other change will have the effect to distract the disruptive student and possibly prevent a problem.
6. Humor is a wonderful way to disarm the disruptive student. If your class sees you as able to have humor, the disruptive student is paid less attention and usually joins in on the humor.
7. A disruptive student usually requires an audience to gain power. It may be one or two students that cooperate with the disruptive student and fuel the student’s defiance with attention. The sooner you break up this union the better. One way to do this is to have your students break up into small groups that will be asked question periodically concerning your lesson. The questions are for no credit but will indicate their attention to what is taught. These small groups may have to be changed periodically but do prevent the attention that the disruptive student gains from the one or two others that had fueled the disruptive student's behavior. In addition, the interaction between the disruptive student and more common students will have a positive effect of the target student.
8. be flexible in your thinking and in your behavior. Your class will have more respect for you if they see you as flexible. In addition, you are modeling flexibility to your students. Rigid or authoritarian styles are seen as a challenge to the disruptive student and you can count on a problem from them as a result.
9. Smile often to your class. Many disruptive students will justify their behavior by seeing you as angry and inflexible. Smiling to your students helps to prevent this justification.
10. Use confrontation with the disruptive student only as a last resort and never in front of other students. Confrontation in front of other students only provides an audience for them as a well as a pressure for them to respond in a negative manner. In a private meeting show yourself to be concerned, helpful, and understanding of the disruptive student's situation.
These are only some interventions that you may find useful with some of your students. These do not cover all situations.

 Attention Training is not a psychological treatment but an educational process.

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