ProTip Wednesday: 10 Ways to Motivate Students to Raise Their Hands

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We’ve all been there: you ask a question to the class and you’re met with 30 blinking eyes. “Anyone? Come on guys, we just read this yesterday!” The reason behind why your students aren’t raising their hands may be more complicated than just temporary memory loss — try one of these ten things in your classroom tomorrow to try and encourage students to raise their hands.

1. Required or graded participation

Strangely enough, if you made participation a part of their grade, it would encourage them to raise their hand. For many law school classrooms, participation is a majority of one’s grade. Students must be ready with an answer and it can be random or in order of seat arrangement, but when they’ve been called, they can relax for a few more weeks. (via The Teaching Professor)

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2. Real-life examples and discussions

We’re back to our previous ProTip — building relevancy increases engagement. Grounding class discussions helps bring lectures back to students’ own background knowledge and builds context. (via The Teaching Professor)

3. Asking effective questions

Asking the right question not only facilitates the discussion by bringing depth to the topic, but also ensures that all students, not just overzealous participators, are in on the conversation.

4. Negate the fear of taking intellectual risks

I taught a middle school classroom where the high point of peer acceptance is overpowering. Putting students in small groups or teams would definitely help, but one of biggest proactive steps a teacher can take is to build a culture of inquiry and acceptance. They might not only fear the peers’ criticisms, but also their teacher’s.

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5. Nonverbal feedback

Conferencing with students or giving surveys as a way to talk to students in another environment may lower any barriers students feel in participating in your classes. (via The Teaching Professor)

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6. Preparing for tomorrow

It might be worthwhile to give students a set of questions that you will guarantee will be asked so that students can prepare. Think of like going into a faculty meeting and your administrator asks you to come up with five new ideas on the spot – you would appreciate the time to prepare.

7. Arrange for success

I remember many weeks before school starts on determining the best desk arrangement that fosters lively classroom discussion as well contributes to classroom management. One of my best desk arrangements was a Socratic Seminar circle or semi circle that creates an atmosphere of mutual discussion amongst peers and where you’re not the central lecturer. (via The Teaching Professor)

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8. Body language as feedback

Move to the side of the room where more of the quiet students are and smile and make eye contact with them. If you have a frequent volunteer, encourage responses by looking around the room at the same time. (via The Teaching Center)

9. Modeling good behavior

Thinking out loud and knowing when to admit you’re wrong is something that is difficult for us teachers to do because we are supposed to know everything — but it’s okay to say you don’t know. Encourage it as a time to brainstorm together and thereby creating a culture of inquiry and a safe space to think out loud. (via The Teaching Center)

10. Thinking time

The hardest thing was to actively use the needed thinking time for a student to answer a question from me. However, give 5-10 seconds after a question before choosing anyone thereby giving all kinds of thinkers time to formulate an answer. Avoid answer the question yourself by rephrasing the question if no one answers. (via The Teaching Center)

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2 thoughts on “ProTip Wednesday: 10 Ways to Motivate Students to Raise Their Hands

  1. Pingback: Student Engagement: Deep vs. Surface | Higher Order Teaching

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