Explore Strategies - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

One student monopolizes class.

Student is especially enthusiastic or knowledgeable about the subject.

Sometimes a student monopolizes discussion because her interest in or knowledge of the subject exceeds that of her classmates. For example, a graduate student in a class with undergraduates or a major in a class with non-majors may pose sophisticated questions that limit less advanced students’ ability to participate. In such cases, it’s important to recognize and reward the individual student’s intellectual curiosity while also firmly steering the conversation back to where the rest of the class can engage and benefit.

Strategies:

Talk to student outside of class.

Assign student a listening, synthesizing or questioning role.

Pose a question and give students time to write.


Talk to student outside of class.

Warmly commend the student for her interest, preparation, knowledge, etc., while reinforcing the importance of making room for others to contribute.  Offer to meet with the student one-on-one to discuss questions or issues that interest her but which are not appropriate to pursue in class.

Assign student a listening, synthesizing or questioning role.

A clearly defined and specific role can prevent a particularly talkative student from monopolizing or sidetracking discussion, while also channeling her intellectual energy in a productive direction. For example, you might give the student the job of taking notes and synthesizing key issues or identifying divergent perspectives at the end of the discussion. Alternatively, you could ask an advanced student to generate thought-provoking questions about readings. These strategies may work best when the student in question belongs to a recognizably different category than her classmates (e.g., a grad student among undergraduates), so there’s a clear reason for differential treatment.

Pose a question and give students time to write.

If a particularly advanced student answers virtually every question you pose, other students may become passive and disengaged or just plain irritated. One way to disrupt this pattern is to give the rest of your students more time to collect their thoughts and muster their courage. You can do this simply by waiting a few beats before calling on anyone. Or you can pose a question, give students a minute to write down their thoughts, and then ask for volunteers (there are likely to be more of them once they’ve had the opportunity to prepare and answer) or call on students you don’t generally hear from. This approach conveys that you expect and want to hear from everyone, not just the most sophisticated or assertive students.

This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person!

 

learning principles

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. MORE>
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know. MORE>
  3. Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn. MORE>
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. MORE>
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning. MORE>
  6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning. MORE>
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning. MORE>