I agree with much of what Kim writes in her blog about the know-it-all. Like Kim, it has been my experience that some of the know-it-alls enhance class instruction. At times, they do seem to have a negative effect on the class because they display superior attitudes or talk too much, but the fact that the other students get a little riled and feel the need to say something to the know-it-all lets me know that they are thinking. Of course, the teacher should mediate the comments by keeping the students on task and allowing only constructive discourse, which also serves the purpose of not losing charge of the classroom.
Another point that I can make about know-it-alls, which is true of other students as well, is that they sometimes get a point across to his or her peers in ways that I had not considered. Once I have determined that the student is knowledgeable in an area and presented him with an additional challenge – something to which he doesn’t have an immediate answer – I strategically place him in groups that need leaders so that he can learn to work with others who may or may not know as much as he.
The scenarios described above are best case, meaning that we are dealing with a know-it-all who is knowledgeable and not extremely rude. Others, as Kim mentions, are destructive. The behavior of these students could also be labeled “don’t know-it-alls”. Sometimes they cause class disruption by talking out of turn, being generally disrespectful toward the teacher and classmates, and throwing the class into a bit of disarray because the teacher has to spend time deflecting unnecessary comments. All of which leads to loss of learning time for other students. This student is more difficult to manage. He can grow into a class asset, but must first be reigned in and taught to recognize that it is all right that he or she doesn’t know everything. That’s a bigger challenge for teacher and student.
Both types of learners need personal acknowledgement and nurturing to help them learn. The non-know-it-alls can also learn from these students about behaviors that facilitate or impede learning and how to deal with this personality type.