Group Process: Challenging Group Dynamics

This is post #7 in my weekly series on “Group Process in Childbirth Education: Building and Supporting a Community of Learners.”

New childbirth educators tend to worry about these issues a great deal. To be honest, you’ll encounter mild difficulties from time to time with classes, but it’s rarely a big deal. The students in your class will be adult learners, which in general means they may be more engaged and better behaved than the students you remember from high school. Also, they chose to be in your class, and are motivated to learn what you have to share, which also improves behavior.

If you have quiet students:

  • ask more open-ended questions
  • go around the circle and ask each person to share a response to a simple question
  • use grab bag exercises or games where everyone has an assigned “job” to do
  • do more small group activities – it’s easier to talk in a small group

If you have loud students who over-participate:

  • break eye contact with them
  • walk away from them – toward the white board, toward a poster…
  • look at your watch
  • interrupt if needed: say “thanks for that” then ask “have other students had that experience?”

If you have issues with students’ attention wandering:

  • move around
  • pick something up or point at a visual aid
  • look at the person whose attention has wandered
  • ask a question
  • make students laugh – the inattentive one will wonder what she missed

For “side talk” (two students talking):

  • move toward them
  • look at them, then look to the one who is speaking
  • engage them
  • change the activity – get up and move around, pull out an AV.

If you have a hard time keeping the class focused, and find yourself wandering off target: Always write the outline on the board. If discussion is getting un-focused, you can point at it and say “I love this discussion, but we have more we need to cover today, so let’s get back on track.”

More tips for difficult students:

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