Voice from the Back of the Lecture Hall

What would you do?

            I could guess how this student might be feeling. Moved to the back of the room he felt abandoned, isolated, or perhaps even punished or ostracized. He was asking for attention. After a couple of days of disruptive behavior I took him aside after class, and explained that I had assigned him and his group seats in the back of the class because I trusted them to be active and engaged and wanted to be sure that everyone in the class was involved, even in the back. I told him that I counted on his leadership of the group to be sure that this happened.

            The disruption stopped. The groups in the back of the hall flourished with little input from me, and I was able to turn my attention to the rest of the class. The student lived up to my expectations of him admirably.

            Why did our conversation work?  What other approaches might an instructor take in a case like this, and  how might the student react to these approaches? If I had assigned seats without knowing this student and anticipating his reaction,  how might this scenario have played out differently?

            Do you sometimes feel that you have been relegated to the back of the room?  What action might you take if you don't want to be there?  Is someone you know acting like they have been isolated or ostracized?  What might you do to change their behavior?

What about the quiet students at the front of the room? A few of them, though not all, found a voice that they might not have had otherwise. One was the top student in the class.

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Copyright December 7, 2002, Karen Strickler.  All rights reserved.