Five Strategies Every Educator Needs for Uncooperative Students

Does every lesson run perfectly and without problems? In a traditional classroom, the teacher is able to visually assess student performance and respond to the demands placed on them. However, the absence of this visual element in an online class makes it much more difficult to “read” or get a feel for the pulse or mood of the class, especially when the class does not meet at a set time.

There is one aspect of online teaching that seems inevitable for educators and is likely to occur with any online class. These are students who either stay away from you as a lecturer or simply refuse to work with you. Students with this disposition may make demands regarding their grades or scores, refuse to see and use feedback, or accept constructive criticism in an objective manner.

Some students may be open to constructive criticism and coaching, while others may need time before beginning to interact directly with you. There will be other students who are challenging simply because they have thought patterns or negative beliefs about teachers in general. There is also a trend now where students feel empowered by the anonymity to freely express their opinions without worrying about respect or consequences if a lack of basic professionalism is sustained.

A perfect lesson would be easy to teach as each student would respond to your communication and feedback. But this is not always the case, and it will help your work as an educator to have strategies available to use as part of your teaching style or practice when students become uncooperative.

Always keep up communication attempts

Have you ever spoken to a student and knew from the moment the conversation started that nothing you could say would change his mind or attitude? They had already developed a cohesive mindset and this might be based on perceptions or experiences they had with other trainers or the school. Working with online students presents a unique challenge. You can be open to collaborating with them and ask for a phone call only to find the students just won’t answer you. I know from my experience as an educator that some students are either not conditioned to personalized interaction or want to maintain their anonymity. Trying to break through this type of mindset barrier can be challenging, even with the best of intentions.

My philosophy as an online teacher is to respond to emails from students within a few hours on weekdays. At the weekend I will be on the lookout for emails and respond to any urgent issues or concerns. While it sets a certain level of responsiveness on my part, students may still not respond to these attempts. I know from my work as a faculty development officer and faculty manager that it is not uncommon for faculty to wait much longer to respond to questions.

You should develop your own regular schedule. An uncooperative attitude comes into play when you want to talk to students about their progress and they simply ignore your attempt, or worse, they react hostilely or the tone of their communication is aggressive. When students hold onto such a disposition, it can be difficult to get their cooperation so that they can communicate meaningfully.

A student’s perspective

When students are unresponsive, or appear to be uncooperative, it is often from a reactive state of mind. From my experience working with online students, there have been times when a student would look at their overall grade or feedback for an assignment and get a reactive response. They may have believed the grade was unfair, they “worked hard” on an assignment and deserved a perfect score, or there could be a number of other reasons. These students will either remain silent, finally speak up when their frustration builds, or eventually withdraw from class.

These reactions may involve beliefs built on unrealistic expectations. For example, a student may believe that every effort exerted on their part should correspond to a specific grade. It is certainly understandable that students would react and possibly have strong emotions; However, it is not acceptable to respond to them with aggressive behavior. It serves no purpose and works against the development of a productive working relationship as they will resist any further attempts to provide helpful feedback and constructive criticism.

Various forms of uncooperative students

There are different types of uncooperative students. There is the shy student who feels intimidated by their teacher, there may be a type of student who feels completely responsible for their education and prefers no other interactions with their teacher, and then there are students who think they know what is going on best for their development and will not communicate unless their instructor can persuade them to change their perspective.

There are other forms of uncooperative students and due to the nature of an online class, you may not know what their thinking is until you communicate with them.

Consider this example: You have an uncooperative student who contacts you but doesn’t listen to you. They can either try to find common ground and discuss their progress, or ask for another conversation so they can regain their emotional balance.

While it is uncomfortable to work with students who are unresponsive, uncooperative, or difficult to communicate with, it can help you learn more about yourself as an educator and initiate a period of professional self-evaluation. This is a time to ask yourself what can be learned so you can either confirm that your teaching method is on target or self-correct if necessary.

Five strategies every educator needs for uncooperative students

There are strategies I have used and taught the online teachers that you may find helpful as well.

#1. Be proactive when working with students

The first step an online teacher can take is to be proactive in their approach to working with students. Encourage open communication during scheduled office hours, with availability for face-to-face phone calls, and include annotations with your feedback that encourage students to ask questions.

#2. Make outreach attempts with students

A challenge to online teaching is the possibility that students will slowly become disengaged from their class. When students are not communicative, it can either mean that they are not cooperating or are in the process of withdrawing from the class. You may not know the reason until you’ve spoken to the students, so make an effort to reach them.

#3. Keep up the momentum

Once you are able to collaborate with your students and have established a productive working relationship with them, don’t assume that it is set and completed for the duration of your class. Keep making an effort to keep them engaged and continue to offer personal support throughout the duration of the course.

#4. Address an uncooperative mindset

If a student doesn’t connect with you and has an uncooperative mindset, it means there is an underlying need or negative perspective that may or may not be easily changed. In your outreach efforts, you can offer to discuss the details of their progress in the classroom and then decide on a plan of action. If you can speak to the student over the phone and they become aggressive or threatening, it may be time to stop the call and speak to them at a less emotional time.

#5. Teach with compassion

The best advice for working with students, whether cooperative or non-cooperative, is to always work with them with their best interests in mind and responsive to their academic needs. It can be challenging at times, especially when they use inappropriate communication. You can’t always handle every situation perfectly because you can still experience natural human emotions; however, Teach with a caring attitude and students are likely to respond positively.

Maintain open communication

With online courses, communication in the form of online posts and emails can feel impersonal. This can be overcome by being very aware of the tone used and its interpretation. When working with online students, make it a goal to always maintain open communication.

What does that mean? It’s a mindset to welcome your students’ attempts to communicate directly with you, whether through email, phone, or other methods you set up for them. If they email you, show by your reply that you’re glad they reached out to you and do your best to welcome future communication.

As an educator, be the one who demonstrates cooperative behavior to model it for your students. Those students who resist your attempts or simply don’t respond to you may never change their approach. Be sure to make outreach attempts that demonstrate consistency and a caring attitude at all times. Make it your goal to do everything in your power to be open and responsive to all students—including those who challenge you. Being an effective educator is an ongoing learning process, learning through trial and error, and sometimes even mistakes, how to gain cooperation and responsiveness from your students.

Thanks to Dr. Bruce A. Johnson | #Strategies #Educator #Uncooperative #Students

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