I work with a number of students who fit some definition of “troublemaker”, “challenging”, or “at-risk”. These are students who don’t see the point in doing their work because they’re convinced they’re stupid and won’t get anywhere. When you try to reason with them to get them started on their work, they argue as a means to keep them from having to do their work.
I’ve tried to use my questioning strategy to short-circuit that behavior, but I’ve never been able to ask just the right sequence of questions. I think I’ve finally found the answer, though. By continually reframing my questions, I think I might actually be able to get students to be more cooperative.
Sometime, what these kids need most is someone who will honestly just listen to them and acknowledge how they feel. They want someone to believe in them, and they want to know that they matter, regardless of their grades.