Is cold calling a reasonable strategy of questioning in the classroom?

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hajima
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I strongly disagree with picking on particular students that are reluctant to answer questions. I've never understood why teachers do this, it just makes me (and other students similar to me) incredibly anxious for the entirety of the lesson and I end up not learning anything; how hard is it to just deliver the content?
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bluebeetle
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(Original post by hajima)
I strongly disagree with picking on particular students that are reluctant to answer questions. I've never understood why teachers do this, it just makes me (and other students similar to me) incredibly anxious for the entirety of the lesson and I end up not learning anything; how hard is it to just deliver the content?
At the end of the day, teachers are accountable for your learning. If a student never answers questions in an online lesson, it is hard for the teacher to know if they have understood.

Students with anxiety issues (even if undiagnosed) can speak to their school and have different arrangements put in place. I have a few students who I don’t pick on because they have told the school it makes them very anxious, and we have worked together on different ways that I can check they are engaged and understanding.
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hajima
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(Original post by bluebeetle)
At the end of the day, teachers are accountable for your learning. If a student never answers questions in an online lesson, it is hard for the teacher to know if they have understood.

Students with anxiety issues (even if undiagnosed) can speak to their school and have different arrangements put in place. I have a few students who I don’t pick on because they have told the school it makes them very anxious, and we have worked together on different ways that I can check they are engaged and understanding.
It's unnecessary and humiliating. I've had some excellent teachers that never once used this technique because it doesn't give the teacher an accurate idea of how well a student has understood the material. The questions asked are often about definitions, facts, answers to recap questions at the beginning of powerpoints, or some other shallow aspect of the material. Students can quite easily get these wrong just because their head went blank due to being put on the spot in front of their peers - would you say then that the student has a poor understanding of the lesson? Probably not.

Students with anxiety issues often don't want to speak to their school because it's very difficult to make a fuss out of something that seemingly everyone has to be subjected to. It's better if this technique just isn't used at all; a much better alternative is to make it clear to students that they can ask for help in lessons if they need it or via email if they don't want to raise their hand in class.
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EierVonSatan
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Teachers are not lecturers there to just dish out information to a blank audience, they need to be able to have a dialogue with pupils in one format or another to make sure that they are coping with the work. You certainly can't rely on pupils to tell you that they are having difficulty, firstly because of the audience but also because they often can't judge their own understanding well.

I've found that avoiding challenges and problems, tends to lead to more mental health issues than facing them and overcoming them. Not saying in any way that, that is easy, particularly if you've been avoiding it for a long time.
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hajima
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(Original post by EierVonSatan)
Teachers are not lecturers there to just dish out information to a blank audience, they need to be able to have a dialogue with pupils in one format or another to make sure that they are coping with the work. You certainly can't rely on pupils to tell you that they are having difficulty, firstly because of the audience but also because they often can't judge their own understanding well.

I've found that avoiding challenges and problems, tends to lead to more mental health issues than facing them and overcoming them. Not saying in any way that, that is easy, particularly if you've been avoiding it for a long time.
I never said they were. Teachers can deliver their content in interesting ways that engage their audience without picking on shy students. As I said, this kind of informal assessment doesn't work, how does asking a student to recall a single (often unrelated) fact allow a teacher to gauge their understanding of the lesson as a whole?

This isn't about avoiding challenges and problems (I'm not sure how you can avoid being directly called upon to offer up an answer on the spot in front of your peers?), it's about making the lesson comfortable for students so that they can engage fully with the material.
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04MR17
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Cold calling has its place. I've found the system works best when every student is asked a question. Not all in one go though.
It feels more fair for the students if they know they're being treated equally and all being asked a question.
We live in an age of teacher accountability where managers can ask: "How do you know that Bobby understands that?"
If the first time we discover Bobby doesn't have a clue is when we see his exam paper, then the rhetoric is we've failed Bobby.
The suggestion isn't usually that Bobby didn't ask for help and therefore it's his fault. That expectation only comes in at university.
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hajima
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(Original post by 04MR17)
Cold calling has its place. I've found the system works best when every student is asked a question. Not all in one go though.
It feels more fair for the students if they know they're being treated equally and all being asked a question.
We live in an age of teacher accountability where managers can ask: "How do you know that Bobby understands that?"
If the first time we discover Bobby doesn't have a clue is when we see his exam paper, then the rhetoric is we've failed Bobby.
The suggestion isn't usually that Bobby didn't ask for help and therefore it's his fault. That expectation only comes in at university.
I disagree, there are other ways to test understanding such as end-of-lesson summary sheets that don't involve humiliation. Just because there's no picking on shy students doesn't mean the only opportunity to see if a student is lacking in some areas is a full exam paper.
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EierVonSatan
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(Original post by hajima)
I never said they were. Teachers can deliver their content in interesting ways that engage their audience without picking on shy students. As I said, this kind of informal assessment doesn't work, how does asking a student to recall a single (often unrelated) fact allow a teacher to gauge their understanding of the lesson as a whole?
Low stakes/informal assessment is huge in teaching. Asking closed response questions is a starting point in many circumstances to make sure the points being emphasised have been retained. It is just as much a tool for teachers to make sure that pupils are engaged i.e. listening. If they can't answer this type of simplistic question then the teacher knows they need to change something. This can then be followed up by more open ended questioning.

This isn't about avoiding challenges and problems (I'm not sure how you can avoid being directly called upon to offer up an answer on the spot in front of your peers?), it's about making the lesson comfortable for students so that they can engage fully with the material.
Asking not to be asked/suggesting that you shouldn't be asked is avoidance, though.
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hajima
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(Original post by EierVonSatan)
Low stakes/informal assessment is huge in teaching. Asking closed response questions is a starting point in many circumstances to make sure the points being emphasised have been retained. It is just as much a tool for teachers to make sure that pupils are engaged i.e. listening. If they can't answer this type of simplistic question then the teacher knows they need to change something. This can then be followed up by more open ended questioning.



Asking not to be asked/suggesting that you shouldn't be asked is avoidance, though.
It really isn't, I've never seen anything come of asking random students random questions in lessons. You can't expect a shy student to think clearly when calling them out in front of their class - their response isn't going to be representative of their understanding, even with simple fact-recall.

The challenges/problems can be presented in a different form of assessment, it's as though you believe a shy student will learn to get used to it if they're humiliated enough (they won't).
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04MR17
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(Original post by hajima)
I disagree, there are other ways to test understanding such as end-of-lesson summary sheets that don't involve humiliation. Just because there's no picking on shy students doesn't mean the only opportunity to see if a student is lacking in some areas is a full exam paper.
How can we as teachers rely on students doing a summary sheet?
How do we rectify the student's lack of knowledge on that lesson if it's now the end of the lesson and we're moving on next week?
These are issues with your suggestion that a quick and effective cold calling doesn't hold.
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04MR17
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(Original post by hajima)
I've never seen anything come of asking random students random questions in lessons.
Is that as a teacher or as a student?
As a student, you're not usually supposed to see the outcome.
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hajima
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(Original post by 04MR17)
How can we as teachers rely on students doing a summary sheet?
How do we rectify the student's lack of knowledge on that lesson if it's now the end of the lesson and we're moving on next week?
These are issues with your suggestion that a quick and effective cold calling doesn't hold.
The summary sheet is marked and the understanding is corrected when the student receives it the following lesson. Cold calling doesn't help because the response given by the student often isn't representative of their actual understanding of the subject.
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hajima
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(Original post by 04MR17)
Is that as a teacher or as a student?
As a student, you're not usually supposed to see the outcome.
A bit difficult not to see the outcome when it plays out in front of the class, no?
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04MR17
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(Original post by hajima)
The summary sheet is marked and the understanding is corrected when the student receives it the following lesson.
So you are suggesting a technique whereby teachers need to:
- Create a summary sheet
- Allocate time to mark 150 of them - within a week
- Spend time during 1 lesson explaining the summary sheet
- Spend time during another lesson to reflect on the feedback provided
Rather than spending 10 seconds asking a child a question verbally?
(Original post by hajima)
Cold calling doesn't help because the response given by the student often isn't representative of their actual understanding of the subject.
Do you think that's what cold calling is for?
It's certainly my purpose when using cold calling.
There's plenty of reading on effective AfL strategies. If you're interested, I'm happy to throw a list together for you.

(Original post by hajima)
A bit difficult not to see the outcome when it plays out in front of the class, no?
Firstly you haven't answered my question so I'm not sure what your point is. Secondly the outcome of the assessment doesn't normally play out in front of the class, no.
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EierVonSatan
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(Original post by hajima)
It really isn't, I've never seen anything come of asking random students random questions in lessons. You can't expect a shy student to think clearly when calling them out in front of their class - their response isn't going to be representative of their understanding, even with simple fact-recall.

The challenges/problems can be presented in a different form of assessment, it's as though you believe a shy student will learn to get used to it if they're humiliated enough (they won't).
Asking someone a question is not humiliation by default. You need to let go of that. You certainly can feel humiliation in certain situations if you get things wrong and/or people laugh at you for it etc. That's totally normal and yes that can happen to anyone - but it certainly is not 'most of the time'.

No, it's not as simple as that. It's about building up a person's confidence slowly with support to enable them to relax when being asked a question, asking easy questions can help with that. That often starts on a one on one basis.

A lot/most people are nervous when having to talk in front of crowds if they are not used to it. The more they do it and see that it's not such a big deal as they imagined, comfort levels do naturally increase with practise.
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bluebeetle
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(Original post by hajima)
It really isn't, I've never seen anything come of asking random students random questions in lessons. You can't expect a shy student to think clearly when calling them out in front of their class - their response isn't going to be representative of their understanding, even with simple fact-recall.

The challenges/problems can be presented in a different form of assessment, it's as though you believe a shy student will learn to get used to it if they're humiliated enough (they won't).
I think it's important to remember when you have anxiety that most people don't perceive the world that way. Most students in any given classroom aren't so hung up over being asked a question.

That being said, there are many techniques a teacher can use to make cold-calling less stressful for pupils:
1) Pose a question to the whole class, wait 30 seconds so they have time to think, then ask somebody
2) Give students the option to pass a question, but you will come back to them later with a similar type of question (so they've had longer to think about it)
3) Ask students to discuss something in pairs, and then pick somebody to answer. That way everybody has had an opportunity to talk through their ideas in a 'safer' space - with a peer
4) Announce who you will ask. For example, "We're going to read this and then I'm going to ask John, Kelly and one random person a question about it". If you have an anxious student in your class, you can just make sure that you never make them the 'random person' and let them know that they never will be.
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hajima
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(Original post by 04MR17)
So you are suggesting a technique whereby teachers need to:
- Create a summary sheet
- Allocate time to mark 150 of them - within a week
- Spend time during 1 lesson explaining the summary sheet
- Spend time during another lesson to reflect on the feedback provided
Rather than spending 10 seconds asking a child a question verbally?

Do you think that's what cold calling is for?
It's certainly my purpose when using cold calling.
There's plenty of reading on effective AfL strategies. If you're interested, I'm happy to throw a list together for you.


Firstly you haven't answered my question so I'm not sure what your point is. Secondly the outcome of the assessment doesn't normally play out in front of the class, no.
Yes, this is a much better form of assessment that involves regularly checking a pupils' understanding in an effective way. In fact, if a student is shy and doesn't want to be picked on, these summary sheets are an excellent substitution because this way you remove the embarrassment and blank-mindedness that comes with cold calling.

I'm not sure what you mean here? The purpose of cold calling is as a way for teachers to informally assess understanding (I think? I've never come across this term before but you seem to be using it as a stand-in for 'picking on'), I don't think it does a good job at this, though.

I'm a student. I'm not really sure what you're referring to then, because I have repeatedly answered questions incorrectly in class (I usually panic and then guess randomly) and nothing has come of it. No student I have discussed this with has ever had anything come from being picked on either. Can you tell me what the outcome 'normally' is?

(Original post by EirVonSatan)
Asking someone a question is not humiliation by default. You need to let go of that. You certainly can feel humiliation in certain situations if you get things wrong and/or people laugh at you for it etc. That's totally normal and yes that can happen to anyone - but it certainly is not 'most of the time'.

No, it's not as simple as that. It's about building up a person's confidence slowly with support to enable them to relax when being asked a question, asking easy questions can help with that. That often starts on a one on one basis.

A lot/most people are nervous when having to talk in front of crowds if they are not used to it. The more they do it and see that it's not such a big deal as they imagined, comfort levels do naturally increase with practise.

As you say, the context with which the question is asked (in front of ~30 peers) can turn it into a humiliation. That prospect by itself can make sitting in a classroom incredibly uncomfortable for many students when the teacher is fond of spontaneously picking on students. This is not just me, I do not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, plenty of other students feel this way.

I can tell you as a student that very few teachers (none that I've had) go to these lengths to attempt to make a student more receptive to cold calling techniques. The reality of the situation is that no, students do not get more comfortable answering questions in class after being repeatedly called to answer because it is often humiliating. Public speaking and cold calling are not the same, that's a false equivalence.

(Original post by bluebeetle)
I think it's important to remember when you have anxiety that most people don't perceive the world that way. Most students in any given classroom aren't so hung up over being asked a question.


That being said, there are many techniques a teacher can use to make cold-calling less stressful for pupils:
1) Pose a question to the whole class, wait 30 seconds so they have time to think, then ask somebody
2) Give students the option to pass a question, but you will come back to them later with a similar type of question (so they've had longer to think about it)
3) Ask students to discuss something in pairs, and then pick somebody to answer. That way everybody has had an opportunity to talk through their ideas in a 'safer' space - with a peer
4) Announce who you will ask. For example, "We're going to read this and then I'm going to ask John, Kelly and one random person a question about it". If you have an anxious student in your class, you can just make sure that you never make them the 'random person' and let them know that they never will be.

I don't know what you mean by 'anxiety'? In any given classroom there are usually quite a few that do not want to offer answers and find cold calling stressful (obviously there is variation depending on age-group, class size etc.). I really don't understand the need for cold calling, and I have been taught by many competent teachers who do not do it all; why reduce stress when you can eliminate it, and why should the classroom ever be a stressful environment for students in the first place?
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EierVonSatan
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(Original post by hajima)
As you say, the context with which the question is asked (in front of ~30 peers) can turn it into a humiliation. That prospect by itself can make sitting in a classroom incredibly uncomfortable for many students when the teacher is fond of spontaneously picking on students. This is not just me, I do not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, plenty of other students feel this way.

I can tell you as a student that very few teachers (none that I've had) go to these lengths to attempt to make a student more receptive to cold calling techniques. The reality of the situation is that no, students do not get more comfortable answering questions in class after being repeatedly called to answer because it is often humiliating. Public speaking and cold calling are not the same, that's a false equivalence.
Sure it can, but it shouldn't. Nobody should be made to feel humiliated because they can't answer something correctly. I did acknowledge that type of discomfort (to a lesser or greater degree) is common with many people. This can be managed, reduced and overcome. Or do you think that it can't?

I agree with you that just asking questions repeatedly is not a solution to the issue in itself. But nor does it have to be some form of extensive intervention in order to be supportive or effective. There have been several suggestions in this thread how this can be done with minimum input from a class teacher. It does take an experienced eye to observe how a classroom teacher does this without drawing attention to the pupil, though.

What am I missing by drawing an equivalence between the two? Both involve a level of performance in front of others. I'd argue that in public speaking more of the attention is placed upon you for a greater length of time than answering a question in a classroom.
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hajima
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(Original post by EierVonSatan)
Sure it can, but it shouldn't. Nobody should be made to feel humiliated because they can't answer something correctly. I did acknowledge that type of discomfort (to a lesser or greater degree) is common with many people. This can be managed, reduced and overcome. Or do you think that it can't?

I agree with you that just asking questions repeatedly is not a solution to the issue in itself. But nor does it have to be some form of extensive intervention in order to be supportive or effective. There have been several suggestions in this thread how this can be done with minimum input from a class teacher. It does take an experienced eye to observe how a classroom teacher does this without drawing attention to the pupil, though.

What am I missing by drawing an equivalence between the two? Both involve a level of performance in front of others. I'd argue that in public speaking more of the attention is placed upon you for a greater length of time than answering a question in a classroom.
I think it's simply a consequence of using the technique rather than the behaviour of other students in the classroom/the environment itself, it's inherently embarrassing. I will say that students feel it to varying degrees, but it is there, why should it be?

The difference between public speaking and cold calling is that public speaking is typically planned and voluntary whereas cold calling is impromptu and involuntary, they're completely different.
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04MR17
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(Original post by hajima)
Yes, this is a much better form of assessment that involves regularly checking a pupils' understanding in an effective way. In fact, if a student is shy and doesn't want to be picked on, these summary sheets are an excellent substitution because this way you remove the embarrassment and blank-mindedness that comes with cold calling.

I'm not sure what you mean here? The purpose of cold calling is as a way for teachers to informally assess understanding (I think? I've never come across this term before but you seem to be using it as a stand-in for 'picking on'), I don't think it does a good job at this, though.

I'm a student. I'm not really sure what you're referring to then, because I have repeatedly answered questions incorrectly in class (I usually panic and then guess randomly) and nothing has come of it. No student I have discussed this with has ever had anything come from being picked on either. Can you tell me what the outcome 'normally' is?
Summary sheets might be more effective in developing a holistic understanding of pupil knowledge does not make it a viable replacement for cold calling, because cold calling does not have that purpose. The purpose of cold calling is not simply "to informally assess understanding". It has several uses:
- Is Jimmy staring out the window a sign that he is not focused on my lesson? Let's see if he knows what causes tectonic plates to move and then he remembers what lesson he's supposed to be in?
- Bob looks in a bad mood today, he's regularly a behaviour issue for me, let's include him in the lesson early on to get him invested.
- The definition of Communism is really important for this unit of work, so I'm going to repeatedly ask this question to a different student every lesson so that the whole class is reminded of its importance and of the answer.
- I need to check how much knowledge these pupils have absorbed and has stuck from last lesson. If I don't do this at the start of the lesson, then the pupils won't be able to access the tasks I have for them if they haven't all remembered what they need to. - this is where summary sheets fall down, by the time I've read them all, I don't know if it's still in their heads
- I need to clarify whether the class understood something I explained to them 15 minutes ago, I choose a middle attaining pupil who is usually self confident to explain capitalism to me. If he's bang on, I don't have to worry. If he's half right, most kids have got it and I need to then double check some of my weaker pupils are on it too. If he's totally off, the whole class needs bringing back to establish the correct knowledge. These sorts of things are detailed in Rosenshine's Principles of Instruction, if you're interested in reading that.

These are the outcomes of my questions. How I shape the lesson in the classroom is reliant on what answers I get to my questions. The teacher isn't going to stop and say that because Wendy got the answer wrong I have decided that we all need to go through it again. The outcome of cold calling is not a visible thing to students.
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