Archive for October 11th, 2009

Since I took it upon myself to school my freshmen students to the fact that students who talk in class at a private college are wasting a lot of money, student behavior has greatly improved.  Sure, students still occasionally talk to each other during class, but these sidebar conversations are much shorter, quieter, and less distracting overall than they were before I staged my intervention.  Unfortunately, I’ve had another problem related to student talking: many of them are reluctant to participate in class.

Over the course of my teaching career I have done a lot of things to try to improve student participation and to give quiet students a chance to participate in meaningful ways.  These efforts have included in-class writing, debates, and the ever-present think/pair/share.  Despite the use of these efforts this semester, there have been many days when I posed questions only to be met with blank expressions or students looking down at their notes.

Obviously, students who have not prepared for class may not feel comfortable participating, but when I call on students they typically have relevant contributions to make.  I’ve considered whether I am simply asking the wrong questions, and some of my questions are surely too obvious, too complex, or considered irrelevant, but I do not think that this is typically the case.  As I learned student names this semester and was better able to call on students to draw them into class discussions, the problem lessened.  The idea that student participation is a key part of my classes gradually seems to be sinking in, but there are still times when I want to tell my students to S(peak)TFU.

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