Monday, June 14, 2010

You call yourself a student? What kind?

There are five kinds of students in this world and, sorry Breakfast Club, they're not brain, athlete, basket case, jock, and princess.

In my Certificate in Adult Education class last year (and every year, just like Groundhog Day!) we learned that we could classify all students into five, basic stereotypes.

On one hand, it's nice to believe that sometimes a student doesn't like you because he or she doesn't like any teacher - on the other, it's a little depressing to consider that, no matter what you do as a teacher or student, success and failure may be predestined.

To simplify: sometimes it feels like we teachers are just standing around watching students achieve or not achieve what they would do anyway, like Lord of the Flies with a chaperone.

At some point, you have to wonder whether your primary role as a teacher is to "help those who help themselves," "help those who don't help themselves," "help those who want your help," or "help those who don't want your help."

It's human nature to do the first, but a good teacher at least attempts to reach out to and retain every student. But if you want to get to the heart of where classroom issues start, maybe having an understanding of these five student "typologies" - and knowing which one you are - is where to begin:

1. Success Students
These students are:
  • Task oriented.
  • Successful.
  • Cooperative.
  • Accepting of challenging and difficult questions and assignments more quickly and more often.
  • Well behaved.
  • Comfortable with their role.
  • Liked by instructors.
Better known as: "The valedictorian!"

2. Social Students

These students are:
  • People oriented.
  • Able to achieve, but value friendships more.
  • Often assigned easier tasks or questions.
  • Sometimes off on their answers.
  • Popular, and have lots of friends.
  • Disliked by some teachers.
Better known as: "Can you crank it down a notch?"

3. Dependent Students
These students are:
  • Always seeking instructor support, direction, and help.
  • Usually responsible for a majority of demands on instructor time.
  • Comfortable offering ideas, but they may be off.
  • Lower-level achievers.
  • Sometimes ostracized by peers.
  • Sometimes the source of instructor concern.
Better known as: "You again?"

4. Alienated Students
These students are:
  • Often from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Often reluctant learners.
  • Prone to rejecting everything the classroom stands for.
  • Openly hostile and "troublemakers."
  • Often withdrawn, and may be ignored by instructors and peers.
  • Often rejected by instructors as "unteachable."
Better known as: "Troublemaker!"

5. Phantom Students
These students are:
  • Seldom seen or heard.
  • Shy.
  • Average performers.
  • Sometimes independent.
  • Reluctant to volunteer ideas.
  • Reluctant to participate.
  • Prone to being forgotten by instructors and peers, who may be completely indifferent to them.
Better known as: "Who?"


Which are you? Not sure which I am, but if you have some easy questions for me to knock out, I can get on with socializing.

By the way, all of the incredible art in this blog was drawn by me using the Brushes app, just like that recent New Yorker cover - not that Brushes wants me to brag about it.


  1. I think I did the stick figures I drew for my Canadian Footwear story board on that app. Feel free to post that here, I hear they'll put anything on the internet!

  2. Ahahaha! I mentioned that drawing in class this year, but haven't made it public - I'm waiting until your wedding day. It's a must for the PowerPoint. Ha!

  3. You plan on doing a PowerPoint at my wedding? Be my guest. I hate to see what you have in store for my son's briss.

  4. I'd say I'm a cross between A Success, and a Social student.

    It's about 70/30 in favour of Social though.

  5. I think many CreComm students fall into the "social" category. They're also very endearing people: great talkers!

  6. I actually don't see myself up there.

    It seems like the "success" student is the only category of that group that "does well", but that label is closely tied to "well behaved" and "cooperative".

    What about students who learn best by analyzing what they're taught, challenging dominant thought, and asking questions rather than just answering them? Students who talk, but out of a love for exchanging ideas and information rather than than to make lunch plans (not that I don't love lunch).

    Is this an "annoying" student, or an "engaged" one?


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