Tough calls

So you’ve given a great introduction and the experiment is going well. Students are on task, focused and engaged. Nearly all of them, that is: There seems to be a problem with one of the groups. What is it and how do you cope?

Whether the problem is an individual student or a dynamic within the class at large, it can derail progress in the lab and with it your confidence. Don’t panic! Everyone new to teaching has to deal with behaviour problems sooner or later. And because labs are run by senior students who are typically close in age to the students they are teaching, asserting and maintaining a calm authority is a tough test of interpersonal skills.

Be ready to meet the challenge armed with advice and reassurance from experienced Lab Teachers. Their stories conclude with practical advice on strategies for dealing with these difficult situations.

Strategies for dealing with behaviour problems

Sometimes a confronting approach is necessary to bring a student face to face with her/his own behaviour, and its consequences. In this case you might:

  • Give direct feedback.
  • Interrupt a pattern of behaviour where you want to draw attention to it or to avoid an unproductive process.
  • Hold up a mirror, i.e. describe to the student what you see and hear her/him doing.
  • Ask a direct question in order to elicit specific information.

Setting boundaries

MandyPlay video
Friendly but not their friend
Mandy Harper (Senior Tutor, Biology)

True stories about difficult situations

Rozy Refused to speak to women
Rozy (Demonstrator, Physiology)
Johnny Tried to bribe me
Johnny (TA, Engineering)
RozyPlay video
Asked me out
Rozy (Demonstrator, Physiology)

Rozy Student reluctance to seek help
Rozy (Demonstrator, Physiology)
Ljljana You look like one of them
Ljljana (TA, Engineering)
Johnny She went mad & yelled at us
Johnny (TA, Engineering)
LjljanaPlay video
It’s not personal
Ljljana (TA, Engineering)

Rozy One person taking control
Rozy (Demonstrator, Physiology)
IrenePlay video
Failed students repeating
Irene (Demonstrator, Physiology)

Sure - it’s a problem when a student hits on you. Guess what? It’s a much, much bigger problem when YOU hit on a student.