Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Engage All the Students!

I came across this great post at Cult of Pedagogy called, “A Mild Case of Fisheye.” Go read it, I’ll wait.

Done? Okay good. Well, to sum it up (in case you kept reading here) the post describes a problem in which teachers think they’ve had a really good class discussion when really only a handful of students have engaged at all, and just a few have truly participated. The rest of the class, the shy ones, the introverts, the ones too afraid to ask a basic question, were left out.

This is something I worry about A LOT when I am teaching or even doing a one-off outreach event. Why? Well I WAS that shy kid, the introvert who couldn’t quite think of answers off the top of my head. Sure, I was an A-student, a total nerd, but those kinds of environments were not good for me. It’s not where I excelled. But I can’t just lecture to a room of faces. I want feedback and questions.

The article highlights some good reasons why you DON’T want to fall victim to this effect and what do to about it. Personally, I like having students stop to write down their reflections first before entering into a discussion topic. That gives everyone a chance to think through the issue initially before the discussion really gets going. Another method is “think-pair-share”where students break off into pairs to discuss a question before bringing it back to the whole class. This works especially well in large lecture halls where you know you can’t possibly get a detailed answer from every student.

How do you go about classroom engagement? Are you aware of the “fisheye problem?” Are you now panicking because you didn’t think about it before and now oh crap have I been doing it all along?! (Relax.) 

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image CC Silvio.

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Nicole

Nicole

Nicole is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at a small liberal arts college. Her home on the internet can be found at One Astronomer's Noise.

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