Hands up if you can answer this

by Steve Randall09 Sep 2015

A global experiment in classrooms which has been adopted by hundreds of schools worldwide is being called into question.

It was British education expert Professor Dylan William who proposed that teachers should not ask students to raise their hands to answer questions based on the principle that a minority do so, and they get smarter in the process of answering questions, while the majority lose out.

The Age reported in June that Toorak College and Frankston High School in Victoria are among the schools that swapped hand-raising for other more evenly-distributed methods in at least some of their classrooms.

However over in Britain, the government’s education tsar says that the practice should be ended. Tom Bennet told The Sunday Times that teachers are perfectly capable of choosing a variety of students to answer questions, whether they have raised their hands or not.

A discussion on BBC Radio 4 involved Professor William along with Kim Knappett, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. The professor told the programme that the question of raising hands “doesn’t really matter” but that the inclusion of all students was important.

Ms. Knappett agreed that raising hands along with “a variety of strategies” works best. She said that randomly selecting students to answer should be used as some do not like to raise their hands due to a fear of speaking in front of the class.

Professor William warned that although teachers may say that they are choosing students randomly, his studies have found that they are likely to be drawn to those who are showing eagerness to answer.

It would appear from the discussion that perhaps the question of raising hands or not is just a distraction from the wider issue of how to get all students to be involved even when they prefer not to speak up in class.