Handling Student Personalities And Behaviors


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Establish Ground Rules Early

It is important to establish lab ground rules on the first or second day of lab. Some rules are based on policies that have been agreed upon between you, other TAs and/or with the professor. Other rules are in place so that the lab proceeds without disruptive or inappropriate interpersonal interactions. The goal is to create a learning environment where all students perceive that they may equally contribute to the lab activity/task and that the lab is an essential part of their learning process.

Who is a Disruptive Student? Before going over the ground rules, ask students how many of them have attended a class where one or more students' behaviors ruined the class. List and describe the types of behaviors they found disruptive so that everyone reaps the benefits of the discussion without having to single any one person out.

Try Not to Take it Personally As TAs, we often take poor behavior to reflect poor performance on our parts. If you handle the issue head on and responsibly, you have attempted to deal with poor behavior in a constructive manner. One of our principle responsibilities as the lab leader is to identify and rectify behaviors that prevent us from teaching and/or students from learning.

Identify and Respond to Student Personalities and Behaviors

Students expectations of their TAs often differ depending on the match between the TA's style and the student's individual needs and learning style. The following student typologies reflect not only student expectations of instructors based on individual adaption styles, but also behaviors that may accompany their adaption process.

Descriptions of frequently encountered types of students are provided below to help the TA gain insight into the motivations and expectations of particular students whose behavior may at first seem difficult to understand. Although typologies tend to be stereotypic in nature, they are used here to provide a guideline for helping TAs identify the needs of various students. Few students will fit the exact descriptions offered here. Combinations of various types are more commonly found than are the "pure" types.

Student Personality Behavior Possible Response

Anxious Abdul

Overly concerned about grades and will often ask "Will this be on the test?" Encourage active participation as a member of the group and create a learning environment with the emphasis on the process, along with the product

Argumentative Alejandro

Disagrees with everything you say, makes personal attacks, or combative to the detriment of other learners Let the student know that you value his/her contributions, acknowledge positive points and redirect question to group/supportive individuals

Chatty Charles

Begins side conversations that are disruptive to you and others or frequently asks neighboring students for help because was not paying attention Make eye contact, ask him/her if they would like to share their ideas, or casually move toward the person who is talking

Distracted Denise

Does not make eye contact, surfs the web on computer, or appears to be daydreaming Make direct eye contact, insist on turning computer monitors off during discussion, or direct a question to someone right next to the inattentive student

Griping Glenda

Frequently complains about course content, policy or procedures Listen to the student's concerns, indicate that you will discuss the problem with the professor/head TA if you think the complaint is valid or inform the student of the rationale for the particular action/policy

Rambling Raj

Wanders off the subject, uses far-fetched examples or analogies, and volunteers too much information Refocus attention by restating relevant point and direct questions to group that is back on the subject

Silent Shanice

Rarely speaks up and does not readily interact with others Give strong positive reinforcement for any contribution, involve directly by asking him/her a question, or appoint to be a small group leader during small group activity

Truant Teresa

Frequently absent and often late if present Establish mutual expectations of starting/finishing on time, ask student if there is a time/schedule conflict, and emphasize policy on or requirement for attendance

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