Part 1 The Wall of Resistance: Understanding Student Barriers to Learning reviewed some of the underlying issues that may be the root cause of student resistance to learning.
In dealing with resistance, I think it is important that we keep in mind that “ . . . resistance can sometimes be contained, and its worst effects mitigated, but that is can never be completely overcome” (Brookfield, 2015 p 227).
Here are some ways we can contain and mitigate student resistance (Brookfield, 2015):
- Ask yourself if the resistance is justified (p 229).
- Self-reflect – are there issues with the course content/ delivery of content/ learning activities/ disclosure of agenda, transparency with course expectations?
- Research your students’ background (p 229).
- Learn about the students’ diversity and adjust “ . . .teaching approaches, assignments and forms of assessment accordingly” (Brookfield, 20115, p 229).
- When appropriate, involve students in educational planning (p 231).
- “Consulting students about how the course will be run can also reduce their fear of the unknown and will increase the chances that your teaching will have some meaning for them” (Brookfield, 20115, p 231).
- Use a variety of teaching methods and approaches (p 231).
- Consider team teaching.
- Assess learning incrementally (p 232).
- “Students have the right to resist but they also have the right to know what the consequences are of this resistance for them (Brookfield, 20115, p 232, 233).
- Check that your intentions are clearly understood (p 233).
- Use feedback instruments to ascertain if explanations are clear. Rubrics help outline assignment expectations.
- Build a case for learning (p 234).
- Provide rationale why the learning is important.
- Create situations in which students succeed (p 235).
- Ensure that level of difficulty of learning matches with the learners’ abilities. Celebrate successes.
- Don’t push too hard too fast (p 235).
- Allow time for the natural ebbs and flows of learning.
- Admit the normality of resistance (p 236).
- Acknowledge the elephant in the room and talk about it.
- Try to limit the negative effects of resistance (p 237).
- Try to minimize the impact the resistance has on learning.
Susie is in her final year of nursing school. She is consistently late for the mandatory lecture based class, is known to challenge instructors during the lecture about the content or concepts being discussed, chooses controversial material to write the essays on, sits at the back of the class, chats with those around her during the lecture and rolls her eyes when chastised in class by her teacher for her troublesome behaviours.
In Part 1 The Wall of Resistance: Understanding Student Barriers to Learning, a list of some potential root causes for Susie’s behaviours was made. Let’s take look closer at how the teacher can help mitigate her resistance to learning integrating the 11 points listed above.
Perhaps Susie has a reason to be resistant. Course delivery is lecture based and classes are mandatory. No other teaching methods or approaches are being used. This one-size-fits-all approach does not address diversity issues. Finding out about Susie’s past learning experiences have been, her learning expectations and learning needs may help go a long way to reduce her resistance.
Susie is at the top of her class. Perhaps she could offer some tips on how the course might be improved.
Speak openly with Susie the barriers to learning you have noticed that she is demonstrating and how they may be impacting her and her fellow students. Explore what may be at the root of them if she is willing to discuss it. Focus on the issues and not personality differences. Work out a solution together so that learning can be maximized.
Learning how to mitigate and contain student resistance to learning takes self-reflection and a willing to be open on behalf of the teacher and a realization that sometimes, a harm reduction approach is all that can be done.
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques – A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Merriam, S.B. & Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass