Explore potential strategies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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