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In the question Encouraging class participation there are some answers how to encourage class participation in general.

Sometimes, there are some smaller lectures (in particular in graduate courses) or you have smaller exercise groups where you know most of the students, sometimes even by name or from other courses.

What are the (dis)advantages of asking questions directly to specific students? E.g., you can ask: "[Student's name], you should remember that from last year's lecture where we done something similar in the proof of Theorem X." or "[Student's name], I've seen that you solved a similar problem very well in your homework. Can you explain to the other students how to start?".

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If one or two students are dominating the discussion in a course, one thing you can say is "Can someone who hasn't said anything today tell me ...." or if its a follow up question to a student's initial answer, you can say "Can someone else tell me ..." This keeps the whole class engaged. Otherwise, the class can turn into a personal conversation between you and one student. –  MHH May 14 at 18:57
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Advantages

  • Full attention of said student
  • Possibly shared attention of other students due to empathy
  • Personal connection

Disadvantages

  • Exposure of said student (might still be an inconvenience in undergraduate courses)
  • Possibly loss of attention of other students due to non-concern
  • Overvalueing of said students answer by other students (his status is lifted to something between student and teacher)

Workaround

First, ask all questions to all students. Then, ask said student seemingly randomly. Depending on the situation, reason your choice of student to answer.

BTW

Don't worry to much. It's not high school. The students are adults and can decide for themselves, if they want to compare their own answer/solution to that of said student.

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Some ideas:

  1. Literature (sorry, don't have a reference handy) says that when you ask one student, other students stop thinking. So, if you are going to do that, pose the question to the whole group, give a bit of wait time (6-10 seconds)so everyone is thinking about the problem.
  2. Spending some time at the beginning of the course to establish communication and trust rules/culture in your classroom is a good investment :)
  3. I would also soften the phrase "you should remember"; maybe "you might remember...?" or "we have done ..."...

Here is an article related to this topic:

Bond, N. (2007). Questioning Strategies that Minimize Classroom Management Problems. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 44(1), 18-21. doi: 10.1080/00228958.2007.10516486;

The article has a nice list of supporting references about questioning strategies in the classroom that are also worth exploring.

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@ Benjamin: Here is a possible literature review beginning for you: Bond, N. (2007). Questioning Strategies that Minimize Classroom Management Problems. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 44(1), 18-21. doi: 10.1080/00228958.2007.10516486; This paper has a nice list of supporting references about questioning strategies in the classroom that are also worth exploring. –  Mara Apr 6 at 17:45
    
Perhaps it would be best if you edited your answer to add this information. –  vonbrand Apr 10 at 8:05
    
That's a very nice article you linked to. –  Matthew Leingang May 14 at 13:44
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From the students' point of view, the main problem with being asked is most often "If I mess up, I get a bad grade". So I tell my students (1st session and then repeatedly for weeeeeks) when and what exactly will be relevant for grading.

Often this amounts to the somewhat flippant "Make as many errors in our sessions and in your homework as you can, so that you don't have to make them in written exams".

Once they start believing, things get a lot more interactive.

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