Well, this is an interesting teaching concept, excerpted from Teaching Naked (Bowen, 2012), but actually referenced from another book I have previously blogged about, Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do (2004).
In short, the professor writes WGAD (who gives a damn) on the whiteboard each day. Students can interrupt at any time during the class with “WGAD!”
No, the instructor isn’t supposed to get all flustered or offended. The instructor couples this motivating offer to debate anything with the expectation that students keep an open mind and honestly debate both sides of every WGAD objection. Another aspect of this technique that I like is that it really helps learners make relevance of the material. Adult learners especially need to know why they need to know something. Allowing them to ask WGAD helps them to make this connection.
I am teaching a “nursing fluff” kind of course. Or at least, that’s how the health promotion course is perceived by the students and even by some senior faculty. And it’s true, even without taking the course the students would probably turn out to be good nurses. However, if I offered the WGAD opportunity, perhaps they would value the content of the course and discover how it can change their views of nursing. It would also be a good challenge for me to be able to think on my feet and make connections between course content and nursing practice. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try this technique on my first time through the course….but maybe next semester!?
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Bowen, J.A. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
This statement makes me laugh, as I immediately recall one of my highschool teachers. He was a scary looking guy (kind of looked like Godzilla), and he used to say “there’s no such thing as a stupid question – only stupid people”. Yikes! How’s that for inviting dialogue in the classroom?!?!
And while I don’t think it’s appropriate to announce the “stupid people” part in a classroom, I do think there is such thing as a stupid question.
The article Ink Out Loud: There’s no such thing as a stupid question,’ and other ailments lavender cures defines stupid questions as:
1. Those questions that have already been answered, but the asker wasn’t listening or paying attention.
2. Questions that can be answered with a scant amount of research and less than a minute of time.
3. Questions of which the answer should be painfully obvious to any person with a pulse who has lived on this earth for more than a decade.
from: Feder, Mandy (2013). “Ink Out Loud: There’s no such thing as a stupid question,’ and other ailments lavender cures”. Lake County Record-Bee.
And how frustrating it is for the instructor (and probably the other students) to deal with! How can we politely respond?? With patience, I suppose. And if the question is because the student hasn’t been paying attention, maybe throw the question back at the student to figure out themselves (they can always ask a peer who was paying attention). I also like to say to the student “great question! Why don’t you try to find the answer tonight and tell us about it tomorrow”. (This response has also saved me when I’m not sure of an answer myself) 🙂
Have you ever asked this at the end of a class? I have! I was recently filling in for a class, and when I ran out of material (with still 20min to go in the class), I found myself looking at the clock, then looking at the students, asking them if they had any questions. I had hoped that they would ask so many questions that the last 20min would fly by. Did anyone ever ask anything? Nope! Because they knew that if they didn’t ask anything, they would get to go home early. A classic rookie mistake. One that I have learned from…
The American Astronomical Society confirms that this type of non-specific feedback question in fact discourages learning. Definitely not my intention. Two issues with this question: the nature of students, and the nature of the question. A silent response from the class does not confirm that the learners had clear understanding of the lesson.
First, not many students admit they don’t know something in front of the class. Especially if no one else puts up their hand, students may feel that they are the only ones who don’t understand. And in my experience, usually the person who does ask a question understood the lesson, and only needs a small clarification on something.
Secondly, the question needs to be worded so that the instructor will actually be able to determine if the students understood what the learning outcome was. For example, instead of “does anybody have any questions?” I should’ve said: “let’s think of some other examples where we could apply this concept.” This would have given me a much clearer understanding if the students actually learned the material. I will definitely be more aware of how I wrap-up a lesson or concept, and “are there any questions?” won’t be one of my closing sentences!