Increasing student response rate and participation while working on your throwing arm

Filed in engaging students in class by on January 22, 2016 0 Comments

BBT_Buckholt_headshot2_rdax_161x160Have you ever asked a question in class and then stood by while you got that glazed look from a room full of students?  Depending on your level of comfort and experience you can of course just wait them out and eventually someone will respond.  This does take patience on occasion and waiting for what seems like hours for the students to finally break the silence.  If you stick with it the students will eventually be trained that they need to respond or you will just wait them out and they get more responsive.  But what if this is not for you and you would like to try another way, one that helps broaden the range of students that will respond without you having to call on them.  Here is something that is quick and easy to try that I have been doing for several years.  I can’t say I thought of it I actually borrowed the idea from a former biology colleague.  He actually used rubber fish but in my case since it is related to the research I have been involved with I adopted the rubber crayfish.  The actual technique is simple.  You  tell the students they will get one bonus point for every meaningful question they ask or answer they provide during class (your discretion). The fun part is that you award the point by throwing them something they can redeem for the points at the end of class, in my case rubber crayfish.  In the end this does a lot of things.  First you get a lot of students willingly engaging in asking and answering questions.  For example I used this in BB 1002, a class of 170 students, and had awarded at least 1 crayfish bonus point to 120 different students by the end of the course. Second, it keeps students awake because occasionally my aim is off (one reason for rubber crayfish) so they have to pay attention and third it adds a little humor.  A final bonus is it will help you out with your softball skills because it is not a simple feat to throw a rubber crayfish from the floor of upper FLAUD to the last row of seats.

I have found this a fun way to get most of the students to talk in class at some point, but you have to be careful to not call on the usual suspects every time.  It also lets me know how much listening an responding gets done in  particular class session by how many crayfish are left at the end.  I have about 50 crayfish and I have often used them all up depending on the class. So if you are looking for a quick fun way to get started doing something different in class give this a try.

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