Magazine article Training & Development


Magazine article Training & Development


Article excerpt


Every week, T&D posts a question on the ASTD Website ( asking visitors what they think about the training field. But often, your questions are more provoking than our questions. So this month, we selected two postings from advice-seeking readers.

Handling Hecklers

I need some ideas for keeping control of the classroom. I don't want to seem bossy or unwilling to accept questions and input from learners, but how else can I handle difficult participants and meeting nightmares? Any ideas or resources would be greatly appreciated.

A participant usually disrupts the class if he or she is 1) an irrepressible natural comedian, 2) would rather be elsewhere, or 3) finds the content and presentation style boring or monotonous.

Your professionalism will deal with scenario 3.

For scenario 2, try a clear statement reviewing the benefits learners will gain during the course. Invite any participant to leave who doesn't need or want those benefits or skills.

For scenario 1, try to incorporate the disrupter's humor into the course; that puts the pressure on him or her to be funny when you invite it rather than when he or she chooses. An invitation such as, "Now Chuck, what humorous contributions do you wish to add?" will probably quiet Chuck for the rest of the course.


If you try to address the disruption directly, you immediately draw a line in the sand. I usually ask the question, "Does anyone have a different viewpoint?"

Another approach is establishing a flipchart at the start of the program for issues that fall outside the scope of training and need to be addressed at some other time.

T. Maher

I include groundrules that offer a classification of questions on the basis of "need to know," "good to know," and "no need to know." Then I can refer back to the guidelines when a comment or discussion gets off track.


Depending on the situation and the level of disruption, I try the following tactics with disruptive learners:

* I subtly make my way to their side of the room and conduct class while standing next to them.

* I ask them to try answering their own questions. Often, they're asking questions to derail the conversation rather than having an actual interest in an answer. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.