No Hands Up at DESC!

In October 2013, we had a whole-school ‘no hands up’ day for when the teacher poses questions to the class. Students were told about it during tutor time, so that they were aware of the reasons for trying it out.

Why did we do this?

An excellent article by Tom Sherrington (follow him on twitter @guruheadteacher) which you can read here, reminded us of the problems with traditional question and answer techniques. For example,

  • Only one person gets to answer at a time so the teacher has no idea what most people are thinking.
  • The answer can be given before some people have had a chance to work it out for themselves.
  • Students can opt out of answering or thinking altogether if they choose to. They can hide.
  • It is difficult for the teacher to know if students are confused .
  • Less confident students may feel shy to contribute.
  • Very quickly, students develop patterns of behaviour – some students always put a hand up and others never do.

Sherrington discusses the benefits of ‘think-pair-share’ to try to ensure that all students are thinking, and also allow the teacher to hear and use ‘wrong’ answers to move understanding of the group forward.

no hands up

How did it go?

The feedback from staff was overwhelmingly positive, with some examples of comments below:

  • It was refreshing to have to think about a T&L technique and incorporate it into the lesson immediately
  • Younger students enjoyed the challenge!
  • Increased participation in class
  • All students’ understanding could be assessed
  • Students were more ready to be asked questions
  • Quieter students became more involved
  • Students were focused in anticipation of being asked to answer – they were keen to be chosen to answer questions
  • Interesting to see which students found it very frustrating, as they always usually have their hand in the air and want to answer
  • Students were interested in the reasons for doing this and the idea that teachers are trying out alternative teaching techniques
  • Students remembered to use Brain, book, buddy and usually didn’t get to boss stage

The negative comments unfortunately focused on students who weren’t aware of it, or of the point of it. This is a reminder that tutors need to be very organised so that they know what is expected during tutor time! Some teachers preferred to use professional judgement to decide whether to ask for hands or not, rather than to be directed to do this, whilst some would rather use other methods to increase participation. Other suggestions were that we do it for longer. Hopefully, now that this has been rolled out whole-school, staff will feel confident using this technique as frequently as they feel it is appropriate.

Overall, the teaching and learning team were pleased with the feedback from staff and students. Our next whole-school T&L  initiative will be in December!

Charlie Venter


Posted in Assessment and Questioning

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