What is there to learn from students that don't talk much?

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Episode 111: Sparks University of Maryland

As instructors, we want to find out what students are thinking in order to help them learn. We often need to hear what they are saying in order to understand their ideas. However, students' actions are a useful source of information both when students don’t talk very much, and when we can see but not hear them (i.e., from across the room). What is there to learn from students that don't talk much?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Attending to student ideas
Physics Content
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (2 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(1 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(140 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you observe in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you saw.

  2. Some people find this episode funny, especially the first part in which Damien rubs and scrapes so persistently. If you found this funny, why? What’s so funny? None of the students in the episode laugh at all; what is going on for them that is different than what’s going on for you, such that you laugh and they don’t?

  3. What does Cathy seem to think Damien is doing?

  4. What does Alexa do with the materials? How is it different from what Damien does? What does this suggest about her model for electrostatics?

  5. Each person at the table at some point picks something up and starts doing something with it. Is this done purposefully or randomly? What does each person’s purpose appear to be, if any?

  6. What does this episode suggest about how to “listen” to students who don’t talk much?

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