07: Deciding Not to Learn

I found it interesting reading Brookfield’s chapter on learning resistance, mostly because I have encountered this issue on occasion in my classroom. I should preface this by saying that, like Brookfield, I too take responsibility for what happens in my classroom, especially if it involves learning or not learning as is the case here. I feel personally slighted if I notice someone constantly on their phone or blatantly disengaged and aloof.

While I appreciate Brookfield’s approach and while I learned several things about the different reasons students may disengage, I have a few strategies to cope with learning resistance in my classroom.

First, I employ a technique I learned in a PIDP class: To rally the students to create their own class charter. For the members of the class to write down on a large sheet of paper what behaviour is accepted by the group, and what behaviour would be viewed as disruptive to the others.

Disengaged students don’t just act as a threat to the instructor’s mojo, they also introduce a distraction to the rest of the class. At their best, a disengaged student may not participate, staying quiet and looking at the floor. At the worst, they are taking calls right in the middle of the class. Has this happened to you? It floors me.

Second, if adult students are to be treated with respect, then so follows that I do not chase students. I provide to the best of my abilities a challenging and inclusive classroom full of interesting, practical and relevant material. But if this is not enough to capture their attention, I am open to a student excusing themselves and finding another class that may interest them.

The info graphic below – created by Roland J Rios – illustrates the levels of engagement that range from rebellion to engagement. This somewhat contradicts Brookfield’s assumption of responsibility for learning resistance, but in my opinion reflects the respect that is afforded adult learners.

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