Introducing a new, monthly series of on-campus workshops from the Teaching and Curriculum Team in IML – Talking about Teaching and Learning (TATAL).

Whether you are new to teaching or have years of experience, we are always facing new challenges in this vastly disrupted and dynamic higher education landscape we navigate together. In response, we have designed these workshops so you can learn with and from a community of educators, build connections and solidarity with colleagues from across the university, and experience social learning processes that you can use in class with your own students.

In our first meeting in March this year, we focused on the behaviours we find most disruptive in the classroom and shared our strategies for managing them. To manage a democratic discussion, enable all voices to be heard, and harness the diverse insights and wisdom of the group, we used an active and collaborative method adapted from the Hyper Island Toolbox called ‘Difficult Participants’.

In this activity, we reviewed a list of potentially disruptive behaviours, added a few that seemed to be missing from the list and then democratically consolidated them into our top 3 behaviours for discussion. Interestingly, these turned out to be:

  • Absent, multi-tasking, uncooperative or resistive learners/participants
  • Unprepared learners/participants
  • Insensitive, offensive or cynical learners/participants

Does this ring any bells for you?

Then through a process of small group brainstorming, and a round-robin style of contribution and review, our participants were able to come up with some valuable guidelines for managing these behaviours.

Have you had experience with participants who are…

…absent, multi-tasking, uncooperative or resistive?

  • Reframe the power dynamic in the classroom to create a more equal relationship between teacher and student – sometimes students are pushing back against a perceived imbalance in power relations
  • Be flexible with participation – accept that not all students participate in the same way
  • Allow students to have some agency in the classroom – next week on the LX Blog, Jarnae Leslie from the TD School will be expanding on her strategies for giving students agency to help mitigate these behaviour types


  • Use Mentimeter to review the pre-class material so those who haven’t done the reading get a brief overview
  • Organise in-class groups to put unprepared students with prepared students to set a good example
  • If necessary, ask the question: why are you unprepared?

…insensitive, offensive or cynical?

  • Prime your students for the upcoming discussion and take time in class to co-create ground rules for acceptable behaviour (and remind them of the Student Charter)
  • Intentionally model respectful behaviour
  • Notice behaviours that don’t align with the ground rules and call them out in a non-confrontational way
  • Focus on the behaviour and not on the person

The discussion between colleagues from across a range of disciplines and teaching contexts was rich and provided a great deal more strategies than are presented here. Our participants suggested that, at our next meeting, we take a deeper dive into one of these areas. 

Next in the TATAL series…

A particular challenge our participants are facing is how to engage students both online and face to face in the aftermath of remote teaching, so we welcome you to join in the conversation on 18 April, 1-2pm for our next discussion on engaging students in the Post-Covid Classroom. 

Join the discussion