TITLE: Shut Up. Better Yet, Ask a Question.
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: September 23, 2008 6:53 PM
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
called Shut Up. And if not, then maybe there
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
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
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
pattern  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.
 You can read the Let the Plan Go
an ambitious pattern language by Astrid Fricke and
pattern is documented in
paper "Some Pedagogical Patterns". There is a lot of
good stuff in this one!