Higher Ed: Speaking Up And Speaking Out In the Classroom (And Elsewhere)

Oct 21, 2018

Remember the character on the 1970's tv sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter" - Arnold Horshack - who enthusiastically waved his hand in the air and bounced up and down in his seat because he always wanted to answer questions in class? For many students, speaking up in school is actually something they try to avoid. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss the dynamics of classroom dialogue.

Believe it or not, Ed says that he did not enjoy answering questions in class, especially when he got to graduate school. He says he felt self-conscious, intimidated and insecure in a classroom full of math scholars. Ed says one strategy that can work for some instructors to bring students out of their shells is "cold calling" on students to answer, whether they have raised their hands or not.

"I know how I want [students] to feel" in the classroom, Ed says. "Some instructors might want people to feel very comfortable and very safe and so forth.  I want them to be on their toes and never to know what is going to come next so they have to be ready."

What about the opposite situation: students who answer constantly in class at the expense of others?

Ed says that can be a disruption so he developed a strategy for handling it. Ed says he would praise those students for their participation but tell them they no longer needed to raise their hands, since Ed knew that the students knew the answer. He promised those students that he would still call on them from time to time, but was letting them in on the "inside" of how the classroom works. Ed says the students felt appreciated and included, and the strategy allowed other students in the class to find their voices.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about what can be a delicate balance of classroom dialogue, and to hear a new puzzler. This one is really more of a riddle, and you will need to take your time on it.

This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.

For all of the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.