Don't Raise Your Hands Students


"It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry." ~ Thomas Paine


This morning I woke up and had a topic for today's blog post all set in my head. Then as I began my normal morning routine of reading my Feedly and Zite feeds I came across an article that really got me thinking. It takes me about 25 minutes to drive to work and the entire ride all I could think about was the article and the impact it could have on students. The title of the article was Some Aussie schools ban students from raising hands in class, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

This method of teaching was developed following some research that found that smarter students answer the vast majority of questions, which has been dubbed "The Hermoine Granger Effect," after the extroverted bookworm in the Harry Potter series. This gives teachers the impression that the entire classroom is following the lesson at the same pace. So instead of asking questions and students raising their hands to answer, now teachers are pulling a random name, written on an ice-cream stick, out of a bucket. 

This method has created some controversy and I can understand why. On the surface it does seem a bit extreme. The intent behind it may have some merit, but will it really help the struggling student, or will it just discourage them even more. I've been in classrooms where teachers use the same method, but never for the entire day, only at certain times. For me this evokes an image of a class of disengaged learners, where nobody seems excited to learn or express themselves. I believe that teachers know their students. They use a variety of assessment tools to determine student achievement as whether they need additional support. I've often said that our provincial testing won't tell a classroom teacher anything they don't already know. They will know the students that need support. Why not leave it up to their professional judgement on when and how they support those learners? 

When I think of a classroom that I want for my daughter I envision a classroom where the teacher cares about all students, regardless of ability, where success is celebrated no matter how big or small, where inquiry is the centrepiece of the classroom, where outdoor learning is valued and where technology tools are used appropriately and with purpose. 

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the article and the potential impact it might have on all students.

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  • David Carruthers

    I completely agree with you Dave. Although it's important to encourage accountability, we need to do so in a way that also promotes a safe learning environment for our students. If we are pulling names at random from a bucket, we are likely creating strong feelings of anxiety for many students. With a little creativity, we can frame questions in such a way that accountability is increased, while feelings of anxiety are reduced. This reminds me of a graphic from Barrie Bennett's book Beyond Monet.

  • David

    Thanks David. I totally agree that it's important to promote a safe learning environment for our students. When students don't feel support at school there is very possibility that that won't achieve to their potential. Framing questions is an important aspect of teaching that often gets overlooked, including wait time for students to answer. Thanks for the graphic from Beyond Monet it really puts a nice framework around questioning.

  • Sheila Stewart

    I thought, "why not have a set thinking time after key questions and encourage responses different ways instead?" as I read that article earlier today. The graphic that David added is great and provides some better approaches, I think.

  • David

    Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for commenting. I mentioned in my response to David above that wait time is also important for students to clarify their thinking. I learned this lesson early on in my career. Encouraging responses in different ways is also an excellent method. Using exit tickets, or response devices like "clickers" can be anonymous, therefore providing a bit of safety for students to attempt questions and at the same time give teachers a picture of understanding.

  • I'm a fan of Wiliams work, as I feel that in many cases educators are not taking full advantage of the power of formative assessment. So I went digging and found this article.
    As in all cases when I read the word "banned" I worry that we've lost our sense of moderation. I see merit in some of what they are saying. I've been in classes when only the bright students are called upon and some of our students can spend a whole day without interacting with their teacher. Ideally it is through the uncovering and dissecting of incorrect answers that greater learning occurs.
    Ideally I would like to see our teachers continue to build their "toolkit" of formative assessment techniques and not rely on "only oral answers provided via a raised hand".

  • David

    Wow, great article Sue! I love it when there is a sports connection to learning :)

    I agree with your thoughts on the word "banned". Moderation is certainly something we need to consider before placing limits on anything.