“What do you all think” is a common question asked by instructors. However, in an 80-person lecture hall, the question goes unanswered.
The likelihood that more than two or three people raise their hands and actually answer the instructor’s question is close to zero. Students should speak up and participate in classroom discussions to benefit themselves and other students in the classroom.
A study conducted by Karp & Yoels describes the banking model of college classroom interaction. The concept is that a student vgoes into the classroom believing the instructor is the sole source of information and students are merely recipients.
This lack of participation develops into an entire classroom of zombie-looking students with the exception of four to five know-it-alls who constantly engage in discussion with the instructor.
From someone who is one of the people who annoyingly asks questions, makes suggestions and attempts to correctly answer questions in class — I probably learn and remember a lot more than most because I engage in what’s called active learning.
Michael Prince, a professor from Bucknell University, describes active learning as learning that goes beyond a traditional lecture where students passively receive information. Active learning requires that students engage in meaningful discussion and actually think about the information, rather than just receiving it.
In UI classrooms, instructors consistently try to ask students questions and start the process of active learning. Unfortunately, instructors are shutdown by students staring blankly back at them.
Karp & Yoels explains the phenomenon in their 1976 study and coined the phrase civil attention. Civil attention refers to students who create an image that they’re paying attention in class when really the information might be going in one ear and out the other. This kind of appearance causes instructors to be reluctant to call on someone in fear of embarrassing them or catching the student off guard.
So, an instructor can leave the classroom believing an effective and hearty discussion took place, when really the discussion was between four to five students and the rest of the students were onlookers.
The people who reap the benefits of classroom discussions are the students who participate in them. They are probably scoring better on exams, receiving higher grades and remember the information more thoroughly. These people are getting their money’s worth.
If students are enrolled in classes and pay tuition, why not try and get the most out of school? It’s also likely that if you have a pending question or comment about the lecture material, five other students have the same question and are just not speaking up.
More UI students need to spend the 50 minutes in lecture critically thinking and challenging the instructor and other students in the classroom. This kind of learning will result in a better understanding of the material, a more diverse perspective on issues and better grades on assignments and exams.
Most university students have a high capacity when it comes to learning and thinking critically about things — show your peers and your instructors you are not a zombie. Show them that you have a brain and know how to use it.
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