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Handle It!



They may be rare, but problem situations, in which learning is inhibited due to the behavior of one or more of the students, may occur. Problem situations have something to do with the level of participation of individual students (i.e. when students participate too much or too little).

Too much participation: Students may not be able to fully participate in group or class activities when an individual student is too vocal. Overly vocal students may be merely the result of an enthusiastic interest in the course material, or it may be the result of an inner need for recognition.

Too little participation: When one participant is too vocal, others may not feel confident, adequate or otherwise comfortable participating so they remain silent. A non-participative student's valuable input may be lost from the group. In addition, the trainer may not be able to accurately assess the degree of learning that's taking place when students are silent. On the other hand, silent students may not be motivated to participate. They may be feeling stressed out due to other more-pressing job requirements.

1. Students who participate too much in training, may be doing so for this reason.

a. They are bored with the topic
b. They have too little knowledge of the topic
c. They have a need to be recognized by others
d. They are tired or ill

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Problem situations may occur when student behavior is perceived by the trainer as inappropriate. A student may express hostility towards the trainer, the company, or another student. Don't assume that such behavior on the part of students is a reflection of their hostility toward you or your training.

What to do?

When the student appears to be overactive or inhibited in some way, there are three important strategies to consider.

  • Carefully try to eliminate or reduce the problem behavior. Agreeing to disagree can go a long way in resolving the problem. It may be necessary to take a break so that you can have a private conversation with the disruptive student.
  • Maintain the self-esteem of the student causing the disruption. Never belittle or criticize the student. Through the years, I've always taught that we should avoid inferring in any way that the student is mad, bad, evil, lazy, crazy or stupid. That will get you nowhere.
  • Avoid further disruptions. Make sure the learning environment is relaxed and conducive to learning. Remain emotionally neutral. Don't get wrapped up one way or the other in the opinion of the student. Remain professional and objective.

2. When dealing with hostile or disruptive behaviors in training, the trainer should _____.

a. not assume disruptive students lack motivation
b. get wrapped up in the student's opinion if it's wrong
c. belittle or criticize the student
d. stand firm and never be emotionally neutral

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The ABCs of Behavior

The ABCs of Safety Behavior
(Click to enlarge)

To better understand what drives the behaviors of students we teach, let's take a look at some basic behavioral-based safety (BBS) concepts. These concepts explain why we do what we do in the workplace. The ABCs of safety behavior are: Activators; Behaviors; and Consequences.

Activators. are called "activators" because they tend to activate a behavior. They are also called "antecedents" because they come before behaviors. Either way, you get the idea. Examples of activators at work might include:

  • hearing something said in a safety training session
  • seeing a co-worker get hurt
  • being reprimanded for violating a safety rule

The above activators may cause internal thoughts, beliefs, and feelings such as:

  • "Hey, this committee is doing great things"
  • "Wow, I need to be careful on this job"
  • "I better not violate this safety rule again"

Behaviors. Our safety behaviors are primarily based on what we believe the consequences will be. We quickly weigh the positive consequences against the negative consequences and act on our belief. We usually choose to do things for a reason, don't we. Here are some examples of safety-related behaviors:

  • I keep coming to safety committee meetings
  • I warn others about the hazards of a job
  • I use safe practices from now on

Consequences. There are always consequences to every action, both positive or negative. For more on consequences, see Course 712, Safety Supervision and Leadership. Below are some examples of consequences that you might experience.

  • I get a pay raise for being an active member of the safety committee
  • My coworkers don't get hurt on the job
  • I am recognized for being safe

These consequences, in turn, become activators that increase or decrease the likelihood of future behaviors.

Now that we have a pretty good understanding of the ABCs of behavior, we can devise some strategies that will act as activators influencing behaviors during the training session. Let's take a look at a few of these strategies.

3. Which of the following are the elements of the ABCs of behavior?

a. Antecedents, Being, and Continuance
b. Abilities, Bearings, and Contemplations
c. Activators, Behaviors, and Consequences
d. Actions, Behaviors, and Connections

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Handling Problem Situations

When a participant disrupts the training try the strategies below.

1. Acknowledge the behavior by describing it without evaluation.

  • "I see you don't agree with what's just been said, is that right?"

2.Validate the thoughts and feelings that are causing the behavior.

  • Validate the idea: " ...and you may have a good point."
  • The Feel-Felt-Found response: "I know how you feel, I've felt that way myself, but I've found that..."

3. Agree to disagree. What works for one person may not work for another. There may not be a "one fits all" solution.

4. Ask others what they think: "What do others think about that...?"

5. Ask for permission to get other ideas: "Are you willing to let others express their opinions on the matter?"

4. Which of the following is an example of the "Feel-Felt-Found" response while training?

a. "I feel your pain, and I have felt it many times, yet I have found that..."
b. "I feel how you feel, but I have not felt that way because I found that..."
c. "I feel you are wrong about how you felt because I have found that..."
d. "I know how you feel, I've felt that way too, but I have found that..."

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Strategize This!

Read and discuss the assigned scenario below. Identify strategies that you believe would work in eliminating or reducing the problem behavior(s) described.

1. Ralph dominates the class discussion of proper accident investigation procedures and answers all the questions the trainer asks before anyone else in the group has a chance to speak. What do you do?

Believe me, when one student dominates the class, most of the other students don't like it. Some will disengage, while others will feel intimidated. Some students may be critical of your inability to maintain control of the process. In the past, when one student dominates the discussion, I usually tell him or her in a light-hearted way (with a smile), that "OK... you've used up your quota, how about someone else." I then ask others what their questions and ideas might be. A few times I have actually had to speak with the student privately during the break about giving others a chance to get involved. Thank the student and if it's done right, you won't harm the student's self-esteem.

2. Gloria is continually interrupting the trainer's lecture on the elements of the hazard communication program to debate technical details of the subject. Her information is quite accurate. It's obvious that she has a thorough knowledge of the subject and extensive experience managing the program. What would you do?

First of all, don't be intimidated by an "expert" student. You're going to have them once in a while. Don't think of the student as a competitor. Rather, turn that potential competitor into an ally by acknowledging his or her expertise on the subject. However, as with the student in Scenario #1 above, the student may have a great need to be recognized and appreciated, so go ahead and give'm what they want. It takes pressure off you as the instructor, and sets a good example for your students. Remember, you are always teaching others something about yourself. You can not NOT teach and you can not NOT learn. We are all teachers and students at the same time.

3. Bob is responding to questions related to safety accountability with very negative opinionated comments. He just can't seem to say anything positive and it's clear others are starting to get impatient with him. What do you do?

It's not a question of if, but when. Someday you're going to get that negative student who doesn't want to be in training, doesn't like you, doesn't like the topic, doesn't like safety, or just otherwise is not happy. When you get students who answer all your questions with a negative tone and response, or worse yet, they interrupt you while teaching, there are some good techniques you can use to turn things around. I've used the "feel, felt, found" method described in the last section a few times and that worked well. The method I like the best is to ask others in the class what they think. Let the other students counter the negativity. Again, as a last resort, if the student just can't "straighten up," you may have to speak to them privately during the break.

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Finish with a Bang!

Now that you've conducted the training, it's time to wrap things up. Depending on the length of the training session, wrapping up can take as little as fifteen minutes or over an hour. Let's take a look at the steps to finish up the training.

Finishing Steps*

  • What? Review what's been achieved during the training.
  • So what? Restate why it's important. Have participants take stock. Ask them to share what's been most important to them.
  • What now? Talk about how they can apply what they've learned to their work.
  • What's next? Discuss what they can do to further their learning. Remind them about any follow-up or feedback actions after training is completed.
  • Loose ends: Finish up with any issues that may have been "parked" (set aside) during the training.
  • Evaluate: Give participants time to complete the training evaluation form.
  • Celebrate: Thank everyone!
  • Say good-bye: See you next time. Drive safely!
  • Reflect: Take time to write down changes, improvements, thoughts.

* Source: Bruce Klatt, The Ultimate Training Workshop Handbook, McGraw-Hill Pub.

6. According to Bruce Klatt which of the following is a way to finish training "with a bang?"

a. Don't bother with any forms
b. End with "that's it"
c. Restate why the training is important
d. Tell students to fill in an online survey

Check your Work

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