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Guila Muir

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Wild Classroom: How to Prevent the Chaos

by Guila Muir

Have you ever worried about your participants going wild, tuning out, or exhibiting other potentially disruptive behaviors? The concept of “classroom management” will help.

Good classroom management is the ability to run your training sessions smoothly. Research shows that good classroom management enables students to learn and retain more.

Surprisingly, research also shows that good classroom management has nothing to do with the trainer’s personality, or even whether participants like the trainer. Rather, it has everything to do with the trainer’s behaviors–how you act in the classroom.

Dominance and Cooperation

Research shows that a trainer keeps control of the classroom by exhibiting appropriate levels of both dominance and cooperation.


A trainer’s dominance doesn’t mean forceful command and control. Instead, educational researchers define appropriate dominance as the trainer’s ability to provide clear purpose, strong guidance, and consequences for unacceptable behavior.

Think of the best classroom experiences you have had, either as a trainer or as a participant. Did the trainer set out clear goals for the session? Were expectations about behavior clear? Did the trainer provide clear instructions, both visually and verbally?

It’s important to use assertive body language. Maintain an erect posture. Speak deliberately and clearly, especially in the face of inappropriate behavior. Keep your cool.

Very rarely, a trainer must ask a participant to leave the session because of behavior that is impeding the learning of others. This consequence is at the far end of the continuum of classroom management. In more than twenty years as a professional trainer, I have never had to take this step.


Cooperation is characterized by a concern for the needs and opinions of others. Whereas dominance focuses on the trainer as the driving force in the classroom, cooperation highlights a sense of teamwork between trainer and participants.

Often, a trainer models cooperation by asking what participants want to get out of the session, and then integrating these elements into the lesson plan. Cooperation involves other aspects as well, including:

  • Taking a personal and authentic interest in participants.
  • Learning about participants’ interests and passions outside of class.
  • Talking informally before and after class.
  • Greeting each participant by name.

You can also demonstrate your interest in non-verbal ways. These include making eye contact with everyone, moving toward the participants, and ensuring the seating arrangement allows clear and easy ways to move around the room.

Good Classroom Management: Just a Set of Behaviors

There have been many quests for the essential traits that make a teacher great, and each quest has come up empty-handed. According to a special report in the New York Times, extensive research shows that neither an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, or enthusiasm make a great trainer.

However, the educational researcher Doug Lemov has identified one trait that separates great trainers from the rest: good classroom management. Lemov discovered that what looks like natural-born teaching genius is often deliberate technique in disguise.

It all boils down to two sets of behaviors on your part. By balancing your dominant behaviors with your cooperative behaviors as a trainer, you’ll create an environment that encourages learning and is pleasant for all. Have fun!

Read more articles about Training Development. Learn about Guila Muir’s Trainer Development Workshops.

Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you from a boring expert to a great presenter: www.guilamuir.com

© Guila Muir.

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