A common issue faculty deal with is the Goldilocks issue of classroom discussion – Why does it seem some students talk “too much” and some talk “too little?” How do we create a discussion space where all students contributions are “just right”?
While student silence isn’t necessarily a problem, it is important to build communication skills in all students. Here are a few tips to help the more outgoing student to not steal the show and encourage the quieter student to have a voice:
- Ask students to collaboratively create guidelines for class discussion at the beginning of the semester.
- Have students work in pairs or small groups and you choose the individual in the group who will share their thoughts (or rotate that person).
- Set a minimum requirement for student participation, so all students need to comment twice per month, for example. After commenting, have students turn in an index card with their name on it and the date, so you can easily track who participated.
- Have students solve a problem or write an answer on paper or on whiteboards. Walk around while they are working and call on quiet students that you know have the right answer to build confidence in their ability to speak up in class.
- Be sure to give enough time after you ask your question for students to think about their answer. Prolific talkers are often quicker at thinking up their response to your questions.
- Use clickers or even thumbs up or thumbs down to get all students to share their opinion. This gets all students use to responding and sharing.
- Prepare quiet students by asking them after class to respond to a particular reading or issue the next day in class. This gives them extra time to prepare a response.
These are a few ways to help create a classroom environment that increases opportunities for all students to actively participate in class discussions.