Helping a Struggling Student – Community of Learners

November 4, 2010 at 10:01 am 1 comment

In this blog I will share a strategy that I have employed several times in the past. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I form groups of 4 students at the beginning of the semester in nearly all of my classes. Occasionally, when the upcoming test is historically difficult for students, I offer an incentive that will encourage a collaborative effort in preparation for that exam. This incentive is based on the improvement made by the student in the group who had the lowest score on the previous test.

For each point that the student improves by, I will increase the scores on the current exam for the entire group by the same number of points.

For example, suppose “student x” got a 65% on Test 4. If that student’s score increases to 80% on Test 5, I will increase the score for each member of the group by an additional 15 points.

 This refocuses my groups on making sure that each student in their group understands what is going on. It helps the student who had the lowest score, because they are getting support and advice from their group members. It helps the rest of the group because the process of explaining topics to a classmate increases retention of knowledge for the student doing the explaining. It also helps the entire group because all of the students feel more pressure to keep up with the material so they can be helpful. Finally, the opportunity for receiving a bump up in their test score is tremendous motivation as well.

A Twist on This Idea

If you are worried that some of your students will give lesser effort, you can change the conditions and require that each student must score at least as high on this exam to be eligible for the extra points.

You might also want to set a maximum increase. (By the way, I never announce this before the previous test out of fear that a student will “take a dive” on purpose to maximize the points they can earn on the next test.

Let me know what you think of this idea, and let me know if you have tried something similar to this in your classes, by leaving a comment or reaching me through the contact page at my web site –


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Thursday I will be blogging about the importance of community in the classroom. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


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