Students That Drive
© 29 Nov 2011 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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An observation about classroom dynamic.


I have been a full-time college student for eleven of the past fourteen years, in all but three of which I was also a teaching assistant or lecturer of various kinds. In that time, I have had seen exactly three classes that violated the 2–5 student driver principle.

The 2–5 student driver principle states, very simply, that in any classroom there will by at least two and no more than five students who interact with the instructor during class more than once every few weeks. They will ask and answer most of the questions; when they seem lost the instructor will slow down; when they seem bored the instructor will worry that the instruction is faulty; etc.

One of the interesting elements of this, to me, is that while there are certain students who naturally rise to driver roles in every class, I have seen others who only drive in some classes and not others. Is this some kind of vacuum-filling property, where filling a classroom with only passenger students would turn some of them into drivers? Or are there some people who need more silence before commenting and others who will never comment, no matter what?

This observation has raised many questions for me. Do drivers learn more than passengers? Should instructors seek to increase the number of drivers? Is this a valid observation, or is my view flawed and/or my experience atypical?

There are so many things I see, the meaning of which I do not know…

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