TITLE: Shut Up. Better Yet, Ask a Question. AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 23, 2008 6:53 PM DESC: ----- BODY: On the way out of class today, I ran into the colleague who teaches in the room after me. I apologized for being slow to get out of the room and told him that I had talked more than usual today. From the looks on the faces of my students, I gathered that they needed a bit more. What they really needed was more time with same material. Most of all, they needed me to slow down -- rather than cover more material, they needed a chance to think more about what they had just learned. My way of doing that was to keep talking about the current example. I told my colleague that there is probably a pedagogical pattern called Shut Up. And if not, then maybe there should be. He said that the real pattern is Ask a Question. I bowed down to him. We talked a bit more, about how we both desire to use the Ask a Question pattern more often. We don't, out of habit and out of convenience. Professors lecture. It's what we do. The easiest thing to do is almost always: just keep talking, saying what I had planned to say. I give myself some credit for how I ended class today. At the very least, I realized that I should not introduce new material. I was able to Let the Plan Go [1] Better than sticking to a plan that is off track for my students is to keep talking, but about same stuff, only in a different way. This can sometimes be good. It gives me a chance to show students another side of the same idea, so that they might understand the idea better by seeing it from different perspectives. Is Shut Up better than that? Sometimes. There are times when students just need... time -- time for the idea to sink in, time to process. Is Ask a Question better still? Yes, in most cases. Even if I show students an idea, rather than telling them something, they remain largely passive in the process. Asking a question engages them in the idea. More and different parts of their brain can go to work. Most everything we know about how people learn says that this is A Good Thing. Now, I do give myself a little credit here, too. I know about the Active Student pattern [2] and have changed my habits slowly over time. I try to toss in a question for students every now and then, if only to shut myself up for a while. But my holding pattern today probably didn't use enough questions. I was under time pressure (class is almost over!) and didn't have the presence of mind to turn the last few minutes into an exercise. I hope to do better next time. ~~~~~ [1] You can read the Let the Plan Go pattern in Seminars, an ambitious pattern language by Astrid Fricke and Markus Völter. [2] The Active Student pattern is documented in Joe Bergin's paper "Some Pedagogical Patterns". There is a lot of good stuff in this one! -----