Making Cooperative Learning Work for Teaching and Learning, pp. 6 of 9

Domineering students

To deal with students who dominate group discussions, one solution is to use talking chips. These could be anything such as coloured sticks or objects like pencils or small toys. Each group member is given the same number of talking chips. Each time, someone in the group contributes an idea, he/she is to give up one talking chip and place it at the centre of the table. When the student has used all his/her talking chips, that student is not allowed to talk again until all his/her group members have used up all their talking chips. This will ensure that all members have the same number of opportunities to talk (Curran, 1998; Jacobs, Power & Loh, 2002). Alternatively, the gatekeeper (who opens the gate for students to speak or not to speak) can step in and say, “You have contributed a great deal. Can we hear from someone else?” 

Free riders/Do it all students

Sometimes, groupwork raises the issues of students who avoid doing their part in the group task or those who do the entire work for their groups. In such instances, students may resent those who do not work. For those students who are left out of the task, they may feel useless, bored or frustrated while those who do the bulk of the work may feel resentful when the group gets the credit for the work done mostly by one person. In all these cases, the group morale is affected and cooperation is not promoted at all. To deal with such problems, teachers should prepare task sheets which list all the tasks needed to be completed for the group activity. Students can sign up for the same number of jobs on the group task sheets. In this way, there is a fair distribution of jobs for everyone and all members will know who is responsible for each task (Curran, 1998).   

Disruptive students

There are two ways to deal with disruptive students (Curran, 1998). One way is to talk to the student and help him/her realize that social skills are needed to ensure successful completion of the group task and to get along with others. The teacher and group will help to monitor the disruptive child’s progress. Another way is to put the disruptive student in a group which has very strong social skills and nurturing personalities. Hopefully, the disruptive student will be positively influenced by the good role models. Only assign the problematic student to another group if all things fail. It is advisable not to put more than one disruptive student in a group or it would be impossible for the group to function at all.  

Loud talkers

Assign one student to be the quiet captain for the group and his/her role is to ensure that all the members speak in 6-inch or 15-cm voices so that they would not disturb other groups. Alternatively, assign the loud talker the role of the quiet captain so that he/she is careful about raising his/her voice unnecessarily (Jacobs et al, 2002).    

Shy and passive students

To encourage the shy and passive student to speak, the role of gatekeeper can be assigned to one of the group members. The person’s role is to open the gate for students who are shy and not contributing to the discussion. The gatekeeper can say, “I see that you are deep in thought. Would you like to share your thoughts with us?” Another way is to implement team building activities to get the shy student to bond with the group (Jacobs et al, 2002).    

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!