What are Difficult Learners?
As tutors, trainers and assessors, there will come a time when you will have to deal with a problematic learner. Whether this is in a professional training environment or in an educational setting. Knowing what a difficult learner is, is also important. As it helps you be able to deal with them in an effective way. So we’re going to give you some advice and guidance to help you when it comes to noticing what a difficult learner is and how to deal with them.
What is a difficult learner?
A difficult learner is a student who is challenging for the trainer or instructor to handle. They may be disrupting the structure of the session, interrupting or dismissing the views and thoughts of others, avoiding meetings and appointments, failing to communicate or even being rude on purpose to the trainer or other participants in the session.
As a professional tutor or trainer, you may have encountered a learner who is showing challenging behaviour during your career. Perhaps the learner didn’t want to be there, as they’ve been sent on mandatory training or, they’re dealing with external stress outside of your control. Maybe the training wasn’t what they expected. As a trainer, you need to be able to be confident in your conflict resolution. There are a few ways you can do to help prevent this.
Find out why
Try and find out what’s really causing their behaviour. There could be a range of different reasons why a learner is displaying challenging behaviour during the training/teaching. Learning how to be more compassionate in these situations can help diffuse difficult behaviour.
In a training environment, it’s also important to consider factors such as skill inadequacy, lack of resources, personality types, expectations and internal organisation failings. It’s essential that you build a rapport with your learners, so they feel comfortable communicating openly with you. It’s a whole lot easier to have honest and open conversations when you have a good relationship with your learners.
A learner’s attitude may have an impact towards the training in general. Their attitude could be positive or negative. The learner could lack confidence or have poor communication skills. As a trainer or tutor, if you can understand the cause of their behaviour then you can better equip yourself to handle the situation. How you communicate with someone can influence how they respond.
Poor skills or poor attitude?
Having a one-on-one conversation is the first step you should take. However, the focus of the conversation should be to listen to them. You can prompt the discussion by asking open-ended questions. These could be:
- How are you finding the topic so far?
- What are your feelings about any upcoming assessments/assignments
- What are you hoping to get from the course?
The primary goal of this is to listen to them and then determine whether their behaviour is due to a lack of skills and confidence or a poor attitude. If it’s a lack of skills, it can be addressed in a structured way to suit the individual learning requirements. However, if it’s a poor attitude this needs to have a tailored approach depending on the individual.
Now being assertive is not the same as being aggressive. As tutors, trainers or assessors, you are the primary authority figure, and as such are giving directions to the learners. This requires assertiveness, so you can give clear directions when you’re dealing with a situation of conflict or handling a challenging learner.
For example, if you’re running a session and one learner is interrupting you or adding to what you’re saying with extra information, you can turn it into a brief discussion. Direct the opening questions to everyone in the room to keep them all involved, so it isn’t just the one learner interrupting. If the discussion doesn’t die down after a few minutes try and draw everyone’s attention back to the initial topic and move on.
It’s important that you’re assertive and insistent in including others in the discussion, facilitating any spontaneous conversations, so they remain on topic and ensuring they didn’t take up extra time.
We hope this blog has helped you even a little bit! As we know difficult learners aren’t exactly what every trainer or tutor wants. It’s important that you learn and develop ways in which you can handle difficult situations.