Azara Blog: Asking students to raise their hands is allegedly a bad idea

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Date published: 2007/06/02

The BBC says:

Teachers who encourage whole classes to put their hands up to answer a question, risk leaving quiet children behind, a government study suggests.

Researchers in England studied why some primary pupils, who performed well in previous years, struggled to keep up.

Some of those falling behind are described as "invisible children" who avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Education officials are not "banning" the practice, but say some respond better when taught in smaller groups.

A Department for Education and Skills (DfES) spokesman said: "We would categorically never prescribe what teachers do in their own classrooms like this.

"Today's report is based on what teachers and schools tell us and has been welcomed by them."

"Invisible children", the report finds, are quiet and undemanding and do not mind if they receive attention or not.

The research suggests helping these pupils by avoiding asking for children to put their hands up, instead choosing who should answer.

These pupils, the report adds, would also benefit from having 30 seconds to consider their answer.

Some pupils, meanwhile, are "anxious about taking risks and seeming to be wrong".

They do not like answering questions in front of their peers, and lack self-confidence.

There is nothing particularly wrong in life with being quiet and/or risk averse and/or not wanting to receive attention. Not everybody wants to be a celebrity or noise maker. And having the teacher pick which students should answer is not particularly better than having students raise their hands. It might even make things worse since it could make it obvious that some students are worse (although most kids will figure out the academic hierarchy soon enough, as with the social and sports hierarchy). And is the DfES seriously suggesting that the whole class will just sit still for 30 seconds while some poor student tries to stagger towards an answer, all the time getting more and more nervous because the rest of the class is staring in unison? If they just sacked all the educationalists and let teachers just teach, the world would be a better place.

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