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grad student

Difficult question. I've had luck in my courses and tutorials using the circle method, e.g. https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-circle-practice-classroom.


This is a tough issue, and it crops up in about 1 out of every 5 sections of students I teach. (1) I sometimes say, "I see you, but let me try [insert another student's name that I am cold calling on]" when the perpetual hand-raiser has his or her hand up yet again. This can work at scattered moments, but it can get old if it used more than once a class. (2) Another move, when it's an important question or issue that I want to hear every student say something about, is simply to go around the entire room and require all 20-25 students to give their view. That way, the perpetual hand-raiser gets his or her say in, but so does everyone else. (3) Groups of 3-4 students sorting through a problem and then reporting back to the class helps too, because then, even if the perpetual hand-raiser is the main speaker for his or her group, the other groups in the class still get their say. (4) Yet another option, which I have never tried but have considered, is to have a three-times-and-no-more-than-three-times rule, whereby each student is required to speak three times but no more than three times in class. (Or, if three is too many, then make it two or one.) I had a teacher in college who used this rule (probably to shut me up, in retrospect), and it seemed to work pretty well. (5) Talking one-on-one with the student after class -- and simply explaining that you want him or her to continue to speak up, but not quite as much (so as to allow others also to speak) -- can work well too. But it can also hurt the student's feelings. I've done this, and it has gone well twice, but badly once (the student was hurt, I could tell, and I immediately regretted the talk).

Usually my perpetual hand-raisers are not on the autism spectrum, but I have had two on the spectrum in the past ten years. I was very much at a loss in those two cases, because my subtle social cues were missed much more so than usual. I don't think I handled those two cases well, and I would like to hear anyone's advice on how to handle that kind of case going forward.

In any case, Marcus, you're not alone!


I have students sit in a circle with the caveat that the student who just spoke is responsible for calling on the next student (as opposed to chairing the discussion myself). I find that this helps mitigate the problem of dominant voices in the classroom, as students seem to have a keen awareness of overzealous classmates and will avoid calling on them if possible. I also think it places a friendly bit of pressure on students in terms of making them responsible for carrying the discussion forward - Even some of my more reticent students seem inclined to 'help out' by raising their hand so that their classmate has someone to call on to share next in the discussion. In other words, I find that students are less likely to allow an uncomfortable silence to persist if it's a fellow classmate who's in charge of the discussion at that moment as opposed to the instructor.

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