It is often assumed that teachers are only challenged by younger students aged 14 - 19, but as Wallace (2002) points out, over one third of teachers who responded to a question on 'challenging behaviour' felt they had either experienced or observed difficult or negative behaviour from adult learners. Younger students will have been used to an educational culture where their behaviour is challenged or rules would be issued and therefore would be more ready to accept this within a college environment.
As Wallace (2002) quite clearly states, we as a teacher may be less comfortable to admonish or correct an older students as also an adult learner may find this far more difficult to accept.We need to also take in to account the different environmental effects on adult learners as opposed to younger learners. Adults are affected far more by family and financial responsibilities, often having to balance fulltime jobs whilst studying. Teaching a group of 16 - 19 year old students Music Technology, we have very rarely had to deal with disruptive behaviour other than students talking out of turn or creating the odd double entendre on a suggestive word within a presentation.At what point can we as teachers decide if the behaviour is disruptive? Wallace (2002) argues that it is when the behaviour has a negative impact on the other learners, Petty (1998) points out that it is important to stop inappropriate behaviour as soon as it starts, this 'Fire-fighting' is essential to stop the behaviour from spreading to other students, to prevent the problem student from 'gaining' from the behaviour and because it is far easier to stop a problem when it has just started.
"Students are the beneficiaries , not the victims, of effective classroom control" (Marland, p.84) Taking the assumption that we are not teaching a prefect classroom full of highly intrinsically motivated adults with no personal or educational issues, then we will have to deal with some form of disruptive behaviour at some point when teaching.Petty (1998) feels that creating the 'right' atmosphere is essential to being able to freely and effective teach, ground rules need to be set from the onset of the course inorder for the students to know what is expected of them and also for them to understand the boudaries. Petty (1998) also points out that we should be very aware of our teaching; most students wouldn't have the opportunity to be disruptive if they were either busy or interested in the lesson content, as he so elloquantly put it " The devil find work for idle hands to do..
" (Petty p.94). If a student is being continually disruptive it could be that the lessons are too easy for them and they are getting bored, or they are too difficult and the student is becoming frustrated. The latter can often manifest itself as stress, with the student showing their frustration as irrational behaviour and often being short tempered. Bored students can sometimes be seen as attention seeking as the student will often look for a different avenues to gain attention.