This article provides a good list of suggestions about how to deal with disruptive adult students: Manage Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom
I have never had to deal with disruptive students, or only at a low level of disruption. I believe it is mainly because I teach to small groups only (less than 10 students). However, I know that I cannot teach to children because of the problem of discipline; I can see through the resources provided in this discussion that there are some ways to deal with discipline and I could learn them but I am interested in teaching not dealing with discipline.
Through the different examples mentionned in the discussion, I understand that Adults may be disruptive too. I believe that knowing our students as well as we can is very helpful; trust is a key element for a positive learning environment. If students trust you and feel close enough to you they may take the time to talk to you about a personnal problem that is disturbing them but they will do it out of the classroom instead of texting, answering their cell phone, etc. during the class.
I like the idea of listing the rules with the help of the students at the beginning of the course. If they define the rules themselves, they are more likely going to follow them. I planned to do that several times, but because I never had real problem, I have decided that it is not necessary.
Somebody suggested that a disruptive behaviour may be triggered by problems outside the classroom. It is so true, and it can be problems that are much bigger than we think. One more reason to know our students well. In the Literacy Center, we work only one to one with students. I couldn’t imagine working in a class with a lot of these students because a lot of elements in their life are disturbing and they require full attention from an instructor to be able to focus and learn. Sometimes, it can be a mental problem also. This is when we can admit that it is beyond our skills as teachers.