Dealing with Disruptive Behavior of Adult LearnersReport as inadecuate

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New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, v22 n2 p29-54 Spr 2008

The adult education literature on disruptive behavior of adult learners was reviewed and a survey on disruptive behavior of adult learners was conducted with adult educators. The findings are synthesized in a conceptual framework for understanding the types and causes of disruptive behavior, which fall into the categories of inattention, acting-out, and threatening/harmful/violent. Factors that may contribute to disruptive behavior are the presence of a disability; history of an impoverished social background and/or of exposure to personal violence; personal stressors such as child care and job demands; and, in the learning environment, inadequate instruction, disconnection with the instructor and/or other learners, and ineffective intervention by the instructor. A set of guidelines is offered for preventing and managing disruptive behavior. It is further recommended that research be directed toward identifying interventions that are effective with specific adult education populations and how to train adult educators to deal with disruptive behavior.

Descriptors: Behavior Modification, Guidelines, Adult Learning, Adult Students, Adult Educators, Student Behavior, Behavior Problems, Surveys, Teacher Attitudes, Disabilities, Social Influences, Poverty, At Risk Students, Violence, Stress Variables, Educational Environment, Educational Quality, Teacher Student Relationship, Intervention, Aggression, Attention Span, Responsibility

Florida International University College of Education. 11200 SW 8th Street, ZEB 361A, Miami, FL 33199. Tel: 305-348-6151; Fax: 305-348-1515; e-mail: horizons[at]; Web site:

Author: Dobmeier, Robert; Moran, Joseph


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