Beating the Blank

I’m currently running one of my favourite teaching activities, the collaborative practical. My students are split into groups and are, as individual groups, trying to solve a small set of problems. The answers matter, but the process and group discussion is what I’m after.

Already, the person who has resisted all of my attempts to open up (for the last three days) is actively taking part, engaged and is contributing to their group. Other groups are discussing system aspects and, at times, having polite but intense arguments about interpretation.

Right now, I’ve stepped back to let them have a think, consolidate their ideas and let them start putting their notions down, to submit to me later.

Every student is currently engaged, everyone is contributing. There were some blank faces by the end of a 16 hour intensive weekend – all of those blank faces are gone.

One Comment on “Beating the Blank”

  1. […] It can be difficult in a large class to get to all of the students to participate in class-wide discussion or sharing of opinion. Students can choose to make it harder for me to do this in very simple ways. Sitting in a middle row, halfway in, makes it very hard for me to walk up to you and ask you what you’re doing. I prefer a more open class, which is smaller of course, as I can assign some work to the class during the lecture (something small) and then walk around and talk to people. Once I start people talking in a semi-private space, I may be able to get them talking to their neighbour, then their locale, then it’s a much smaller step to get them talking to everyone and participating. My experience in intensive teaching in Singapore shows that me leading people from individual discussion with me up to working in groups is very successful in opening people up. You can see more about that here. […]


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