Teaching as Performance I
From Centre for Teaching Excellence
Probably all teachers hope that their teaching will always be so engaging that students will always be attentive and respectful. As a rule, students will be that way, except when they’re not, because sometimes they won’t be (to paraphrase Dr. Seuss), despite our best efforts. Some ideas for encouraging respectful viewing/participation and discouraging disruptive noise:
1. Rather than getting annoyed at sidestream conversations or making a scene, I’ve found this technique to be very useful for those who persistently hold private conversations. If the usual tricks don’t work, as I walk around the room lecturing, I quietly slip the offending party a previously prepared note. It says:
Gentlemen/Ladies, If you continue to talk privately you will deprive yourself of the privilege of being in class. Please show this to the person(s) beside you.
I bring these notes to class with me each day, just in case. It has never failed to do the trick. However, I also bring another previously prepared note that reads:
Gentelmen/Ladies Because you have been talking privately, you have deprived yourself of the privilege of being in class. Please leave class now. You may return: ______1 week from today ______2 weeks from today ______1 month from today ______ Only after talking privately to me
Please show this to the person(s) with whom you’ve been talking.
As I said, I’ve never had to use the second note, but find it comforting to know that it’s ready to go, if needed.
2. Say, “You might be asking a question others need to hear.”
3. For people packing up before lecture is over, try saying:
- (at the start of the semester) “Can we agree that we all stay focused until we formally dismiss, so as not to create noise from premature packing up?”
- “Can we have everyone’s attention until we formally dismiss.”
- “We’re not finished yet, but people are making noise packing up.”
- “Excuse me. Is it 4:30 yet?”
- “That will make a great exam question. Did you all hear it?”
- “The noise you’re making might be preventing your classmates from hearing this.”
- (Simply) “Stop fussing with your books.”
4. For electronic devices:
- “Our rule is this: Cell phones and pagers off. If they go off during class you must leave.”
Summarizing the Lecture
- Before concluding the lecture, go around and have all or some students respond to, “Tonight I learned that….” Or “As a result of our discussion today I realize that…”
- In a large lecture, asking, “Are there any questions” is usually a signal for students to pack up. Instead, try, ‘Before we go on, let me pause to ask if there are any questions.”