EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: The Interrupting Student

Lecture begins and notebooks are open with pens standing by for the inevitable. Focus starts to occur for both me and my students as I lull them into learning by listening to the intricate web that is the Black Hole. As I expound about what it means for something to have a singularity a student voice cuts the silence with:

“Are we going to play Jeopardy this week?”


Pop there goes the focus.

If you are an educator you know these students. These are the interrupting students. The students who can find a way to ask the most inappropriate off topic question and manage to unravel the attention span of the rest of the class in a mere nano-second!!!  You know the ones that ask every class every time a new topic occurs if this will be on the exam or did you hear about [insert unrelated off topic theme here]. They will not be ignored.

There are different types of interrupting students as well. Sometimes the interrupting student is excited about the topic and likes to constantly yell out facts that they saw on television. They do not hold their hand high to wait til the instructor has finished a sentence to be called upon for their few moments of the floor. Nope they just lift their voice over the instructors and care not for etiquette.

There is also the defiant interrupting student. This is the student who for lack of better description harrumphs or sighs every time you begin to speak a sentence because they don’t want to be in class. The interruption from this student can even be the silent eye roll. Honestly, I don’t get these type very often. I suppose I am lucky.

This post is all very tongue-in-cheek but I do wonder about the interrupting student. Does the interrupting student evolve out of a need for constant attention or perhaps lacks a bit of maturity the rest of this students have? What is it that drives them to derail the lecture? Do they do this on purpose or is it innocent? How do you handle the interrupting student?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).

Featured Image: Please Stop Yelling, by David Lee


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JoDee is an adjunct faculty instructor of astronomy and physics at various colleges around her hometown in the midwest. When she is not trying to get her cat, Pixel, off of her laptop she is observing variable stars and researching black holes.


  1. April 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm —

    I had a student last year who had a constant need to ask questions for confirmation. It drove me crazy because he never read the directions, never talked to his partners in group work, all he wanted to do was ask me or my co-teacher. I think he wanted attention and he wanted confirmation because he was afraid of making any kind of mistake. My co-teacher came up with a strategy where this student was given 3 question cards per class. If he wanted to ask a question he had to give over a card. At the beginning he struggled with it, but eventually after a lot of me saying “Are you sure you want to use a card for that question?” He started to think about the questions he was asking, this process was sped up when I started not charging him for good questions. By the end of the year he was asking valid questions about 80% of the time.

    • April 2, 2014 at 5:31 pm —

      That is brilliant!

      I thought about doing something similar with emails in large classes, but so far I’ve never had a chance to implement it.

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