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Suggestions for Dealing with Monopolizing and/or Domineering Students

Students who monopolize class discussions can overpower the group and prevent other students from contributing. Dealing with the student who dominates discussion, without alienating the student(s) or disrupting the flow of learning, is key. Consider the following:

  1. Have the students develop class ground rules on the first or second day of class. For more on establishing ground rules, see the CTE’s Teaching Tip, Establishing Ground Rules on the First (or Second) Day of Class."
  2. Have two or three students act as "process observers" for a day. At the end of class or at the onset of the next, have them report their observations in terms of class participation, etc., and what suggestions they might have for improvement.
  3. State at the beginning of class that there will be limited time for sharing viewpoints, etc. Keep in mind, however, that this may thwart any discussion.
  4. Give the monopolizing individual attention during breaks or before and after class.
  5. While still appearing to listen to the monopolizer, prepare for the next activity and begin handing out papers. This signals to the student that you are ready to move on to another topic or activity. Be careful, however, that this doesn"t become a habit. Students who rarely respond in class may feel slighted and/or embarrassed if they are sharing something and your attention is elsewhere.
  6. Interject with a summary when students go off on a tangent and ask others to speak (Silberman 79).
  7. Take advantage of the monopolizers" pauses. Using eye contact, thank them very much and direct a question to someone else, preferably in another area of the room (Pike and Arch 56).
  8. Prior to asking a question, tell the students that you will be looking for "X" number of hands before you select someone. And/or, when you pose a question, ask how many students have a response and call on someone else whose hand is up.
  9. From time-to-time, suggest that only students who have not spoken answer a question addressed.
  10. On occasion, distribute a certain number of tokens or poker chips (e.g., 3) to all students and tell them that when they run out of poker chips, they cannot contribute for the remainder of the class session. This forces the monopolizer to thoughtfully reconsider when she/he will contribute to the discussion.
  11. You might tell the class that you have noticed that two or three students seem to participate much more than others and ask them for suggestions about what might be done to give all students a chance to participate (McKeachie 43).
  12. If you speak to the domineering student outside of class, tell him/her that as much as you appreciate their input, it would be helpful if they could hold some of their comments until others have been heard (McKeachie 254).
  13. If some students have a tendency to ask questions to get the class off track, designate a place on the board as the Parking Lot and list their questions there. Let them know that if there is time at the end, their questions will be addressed.
  14. Physically involve the monopolizer by giving him or her a task, such as posting group responses on flip chart paper or the board, distributing handouts, etc.
  15. If someone is monopolizing a small group, approach the group and squat down so that you are at eye level. Make eye contact with each group member and remind the group that they have "X" number of minutes left. Look directly at the group timekeeper and say "Please cover these two points (name them) and try to ensure that everyone in the group has contributed" (Pike and Arch 55-56).


McKeachie, W. J. Teaching Tips. Lexington: D.C Heath, 1994. Print.

Pike, B. and D. Arch. Dealing With Difficult Participants. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 1997. Print.

Silberman, M. Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject. 1st ed. Needham Heights: Allyn, 1996. Print.

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