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Student Responses to Group Work

Of course, the students in your section are individuals with varying and changing aspects. But here we provide a rough guide to the kinds of students you may encounter in your section. Real students will fit into several or none of these categories.

The Hotshot

These students think they know it all. They often have had calculus before. They challenge your authority and annoy other students with their arrogance and cocksureness. Unfortunately, many of these students are not as on the ball as they think and crash hard on the first or second midterm. While you don’t want to discourage these students, try to provide them with a realistic view of their grasp of the material. Don’t think that they know all they think they know.

The Outgoing, Talkative Student

This student will be happy to be part of a group effort and may naturally assume a leadership role in the group. The instructor will need to monitor this student to ensure that other, quieter students have an opportunity to speak during group sessions. It may also be necessary to remind the talkative student to stay on task.

The Quiet, Shy Student

This student will often blossom in small-group settings. He or she says, “I’m afraid to ask questions in class, but I don’t mind talking in a small group.” The shy student also benefits from the socialization that takes place during group activities as students get to know one another. Don’t overlook the students or groups who are not asking for help. They will often be too shy to ask for your attention, so make a point of either hovering or directly engaging them.

The Procrastinator or Absent Student

Some students will come to group sessions unprepared or have irregular attendance during group activities. Even if they have valid reasons for their behavior, their unreliable participation can cause frustration for the group and a lack of productivity. You should have your UGA call this student at home and let Lana know about the situation. Refer to the Nuts and Bolts section for further suggestions on how to handle this situation.

The Entertainer or the Worrier

Occasionally a student will want to spend time entertaining the group with stories or worrying aloud about personal problems. In either case, instructor intervention may be needed to help keep the group on task.

The Loner

These students come to section and do the problems, but hate working with other people in the section. They think they work better alone and that the others are a drag on their progress. Do encourage them to join in the group work, possibly by switching them around different groups, hoping they will click with one. There is a limit to what you can do, and your reaction to them should take into account their effect on the general atmosphere of the workshop.

The Reluctant or Angry Student

Students may bring personal problems with them into the classroom. Introducing a new technique into the class or asking a student to pair up with other students can seem threatening to someone already overwhelmed with conflicting feelings. You can try to switch them around hoping they find someone they feel comfortable with. It’s sometimes a mystery why they joined PDP at all. In any case, Lana will be a valuable resource in dealing with these students.

Also, see Notes on Group Work

(PDP TA Reference Handbook, 8-23-96)