Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Calling on Students In Class (And Putting Them On The Spot)

Calling on students in class makes for better student performance? Who'da thunk it? Of course, the study cited in this article was based on high school students. However, it makes a huge difference even in college classes.

I try to make it clear from day one in my class that I cold call on a regular basis. I add one twist, however. I tell them that if they try to fake it, I'll probably roast them a bit (gently mind you, but I still tweak them a bit). But, I give them a way out.

The movie "Stand and Deliver" is one of my all time favorites. It's about Jaime Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos), a high school math teacher in a troubled a high that takes a group of underperforming students and coaches them to pass the Calculus AP exam. In one scene, Angel Guzman (played by a young Lou Diamond Philips) comes into class late. Escalante asks him if he has his homework, and Guzman says he doesn't. Then, Escalante says one of the best lines of the movie: "Ju ain't got ju ticket. Ju can't get into the show without ju ticket" (it was said in an exaggerated Hispanic accent - English translation is "You ain't got You ticket. You can't get into the show without You ticket").

This is how I use it. After I tell them the scene (complete with exaggerated Hispanic accent) I explain that there's an easy way off the hot seat. If they aren't prepared, and they try to fake it, the roasting continues. But all they have to say to get off "easy" is "I didn't bring my ticket". You might think that it lets them off too easy by just letting them admit they're unprepared, but I've been told by many students that it's more of a motivation than most other things their professors do. I'm one of the few professors they have that actually makes them ADMIT they're not doing their job. How intrusive.

On a humorous note, I'll occasionally run into a string of two or three unprepared students in a row, and they'll start saying "I brought my ticket, but it's for the wrong show", "I'm not even near the theater", and so on.

HT: Joanne Jacobs

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