Tips from TSE: Coping with challenging learners

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, September 4, 2008

You've come across them before: the nurse who is convinced he or she doesn't need training, the nurse who would rather have teeth pulled than participate in activities, or the nurse who drifts off during weekly sessions. Whatever sort of difficult learner you've encountered as an educator, rest assured you're not alone and that you can take proper steps to remedy the situation.

"If you have a class of 30, and one is disruptive, why should the other 29 have to suffer?" says Janell Anderson, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, nurse administrator of clinical education at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City.

Different categories of difficult learners, and strategies to handle them, include:

  • The monopolizer. This student, more than anything wants to be heard. "With them, it's their way of appearing to know something when they don't know it," says Anderson. To handle this type of student, try letting the monopolizer share his or her knowledge and experiences with the class rather than allowing him or her to loudly interrupt lectures.
  • The disinterested one. These learners are disruptive in a quiet way: They will drift into daydreams and even fall asleep during class. To keep your disinterested ones from nodding off, chunk your lesson plan into short time frames of 15-minute sessions.

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from the September issue of The Staff Educator. Discover all the benefits of subscribing to The Staff Educator!


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