At a workshop not so long ago, we were talking about the over-participator problem—you know, those two or three students who would happily answer every question or express their opinion whenever one is needed. We talked about why it’s a problem. How the rest of the class becomes so dependent on these students to answer, few even bother thinking about the questions we ask. They simply wait for those familiar hands to pop up. But then a workshop participant interrupted our discussion. “I know some students talk too much, but gee whiz, on a regular basis they save the day in my class. They are there for me when no one else is.”
I tend to break my class into groups of 3-4 so the students discuss in small groups before bringing responses to the whole class. Dominant contributors will also tend to dominate their small groups. And so in classes where there are 3 or 4 dominant contributors I will place these students in a group together; I have generally found that in the long-run they adjust and become more moderate.