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Robert W. Gehl @robertwgehl
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Ok, fellow professors, I need help. Tips on getting more students to participate in class discussions. I have tried:
1) "warm up" questions, where they form groups and come up with answers to the Qs I will pose as we discuss
2) Full-on group work where they write out questions based on the reading, as well as their answers

They will talk a lot during those, but when I ask questions, the same 10% of class answers.

Any suggestions?

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@robertwgehl How large is the class?

If it's larger than, say, 15 people, then that probably explains why splitting up into groups is the most effective

The larger the group the more difficult it is to foster engagement, I think

@robertwgehl 2 suggestions (that are based on my experiences as a student):

1) Give the questions before the session so they have time to prepare.
2) Assign a handful of students for each session who will be asked first and who have to answer before other people in the class get a chance to. One of my professors did this and I think it also helped shy students to speak when they weren't "on duty".

@masu @robertwgehl - differentiation. I divided a class into groups based on where they sit in the room. I have Leo's Garage because they can't stop looking / talking cars, I have the phenomenal women, I have words with friends (they freestyle) and I have squad fam. They made that one up. I do more small group discussion facilitation. This is a high school career and tech education room.

@philipgoetz @masu
That sounds interesting, especially the idea of making them into teams/groups with shared interests.

@robertwgehl @masu - yeah. If they like cars then our goal is to 1) get them to make money to pay for stuff for their cars or for someone to work on their car or 2) get over the auto shop as much as possible and learn to do the work themselves.

@robertwgehl In my opinion a professor's job is to teach the material, be there if their students have questions, and verify the students have learned the material through exams and coursework. Not to force students to be extroverts. As long as your students are passing (and have learned the material) then you have done your job. Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of others.

@robertwgehl Seek out Howard Rheingold for suggestions. He taught at Stanford for several years and knows a lot about harnessing students’ attention.

@robertwgehl Have you tried designating a student or two per class session to be "official questioners"? As asking question in class is a form of vulnerability for a lot of people (not knowing something = weakness, to many), this helps lower the risk due to the mutual nature of the procedure. It's not about forcing introverts to be extroverts, it's about teaching one of the skills needed to be an educated member of a largely democratic society: the articulation of questions in the public sphere.

Have them write out three questions before class, and collect it as homework.
Have the ones who don't talk ask their questions, and have the class answer them—if they talk to each other in class, they become more willing to talk to you.
Wear bluejeans and T-shirts—I swear it helps. (So does skateboarding to class.)


I'd echo what @zillion suggested-- I like to make student questions central to their response assignments, and then I try to incorporate those questions into our class discussions

a lot of times, you can get reserved students to come out of their shells if you can convince them that their perspective is valuable-- even though they're not subject matter experts

When you ask a question, don't call on the usual suspects, and wait a full two minutes, by the clock, for an answer: 30 seconds for them to believe you mean it, 30 seconds to think about what the question was, 30 seconds to formulate an answer, and 30 seconds to conclude that no one else is going to answer. Praise all answers, no matter how bad. This is very uncomfortable the first few times, but it works.

Or do what most Professors do—be grateful no one asks questions, so you can finish your prepared lecture. That is less work, and it leaves you more time for research.