Earlier this year I wrote about an experience I had using randomized cards to call on students. Using a practice recommended by NCWIT, I create a deck of cards with a picture of each student on it. I shuffle the cards and then use them when I want to get feedback from my students. Students can answer the question, ask a significant question in response to mine, or pass. After the experience I had in the Winter quarter of last academic year, I’ve been more dedicated about using it. I also sort not completely randomly since those with fewer check marks, who have thus been called on less, are put at the front of the deck. I’m happy with the results of my new technique and my increased dedication to using it.
What surprised me this week though was what happened when I called on a student who didn’t know the answer to the question I was asking. Normally students in that situation pass, which is fine. I try to be completely neutral about the fact that a student is passing, as well as looking at it in the most positive light when they give me an incorrect answer. I will tell them in those circumstances that incorrect answers are far more interesting because they produce a better discussion. But I almost never have students who willing give an incorrect answer.
Yesterday one of my students started to pass and then stopped herself. She said she had something to share but that she didn’t think it was correct. I encouraged her to share anyway, and she did. As it turns out it did have a flaw, which we discussed. But it was useful for a harder version of the problem I had assigned to the faster students, which I pointed out. I commented it out and came back to it when we were solving the more difficult problem.
After the class was over it struck me how much courage it took that student to volunteer to give me an incorrect answer. It’s incredibly intimidating to speak up in class, which makes volunteering to put something incorrect up on a screen for 28 other people to see a brave step. And it makes me very happy that she felt she could do it in my classroom. I think it’s the best thing that will happen to me this week.