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Student: Can I talk to you about something?
Student: Um, it's just that when you were giving the instructions for the lab today, I could hardly hear you cuz the person next to me was talking to their lab partner all day.
Teacher: Oh, I'm so sorry.
Student: Yeah, and, and they were being really loud and you didn't even say anything.
Teacher: I didn't hear them. I'm sorry.
Student: Yeah, it's actually… the truth is a lot of times that happens that there's, you know, people talking and I can't hear. It's like a zoo in here with everyone talking. If that, you know, I think, sometimes when that happens, if you could say something, and you know, I think it's the teacher's responsibility to do something about it when there's people talking.
I'd like to start by saying that the student is right when saying it's the instructor's responsibility. According to the University of Minnesota student conduct code, it states that the instructor is responsible for maintaining a healthy, productive working environment, learning environment for all students. So I would say the TA should first start by acknowledging this and telling the student that he is prepared to mange the student, the learning environment. Then, before I propose a solution however, I would want to know the answer to the question, "whose issue is this?" Is it just an issue for the student that complained or is the whole class feeling the same way? One person's zoo is another person's engaged productive working environment. So I might suggest starting with a survey that includes the question, "The noise level in this class interferes with my learning?" And include a Likert scale from "strongly disagree" to "strongly disagree" and then we'll go from there.
In this situation you have to determine whether it is an individual problem or whether the problem is more widespread and is affecting several members of the class. If it is an individual problem, the easiest thing to do is move the person to a place in the classroom where he can hear more easily, such as the front of the room. If the problem is more widespread there are several strategies that you can use. First of all, you can make an announcement to the entire class, asking them to be quiet and pay attention while you're giving instructions and directions for work. Secondly, you can pay attention to the class as you are giving these instructions to see whether students are understanding. You can tell by body language and other kinds of cues whether or not students are hearing you and whether or not you need to repeat yourself. Thirdly, if you notice that the problem stems from a group of individuals, you may talk to those people privately during a break or after class.