Feedback Is More Than Raising Hands
If raising hands is the only feedback device used at schools, today, it should be cause for a loud learning alarm to go off, because it certainly could be classified as depriving students entry into the learning feedback loop they need, and that educators require, now. Hands raised holds students to yes, or no, answers, in which there is a 50 percent chance of an answer—and that’s all—and that’s if students make the effort to raise their hands. Very few of those students raising their hands understand why they’ve raised them, either, other than to follow an outdated practice for admitting you’re present at an event, or need to visit the lavatory. Educators get no deep feedback of understanding, nor meaning of what they’ve learned from the practice either. It is purely yes or no admittance of understanding rather than complete and definite knowledge. Definitive well-designed and developed answers will never come from hand raising. And the bottom line is that administrators, today, should not be happy with this surface-based, archaic approach to understanding. It can never be used for any decision-making and planning. Raise you hands if you agree.
Furthermore, the follow-up to hand-raised feedback is very predicable. A few students, who, by hand raising know and understand, will most likely, share that understanding very closed conversations with the teacher, while the rest of the class listens, or pretends to listen, or does something else. Another predictable outcome of hand raising is that a very few students, who really don’t know, are singled out, and the lesson breaks down to a tutorial for one or two as the entire class watches and listens, or does something else. It is not an overstatement to say that this scenario is absolutely known, and being played out in more classrooms, each day.
This is not to say that merely polling a class with digital devices, for yes, no; true, false; 1, 2, 3, 4; or a, b, c, d answers is the way to go either. While it is a start in the right direction, that too, can be nothing more than digital hand raising, with similar, and just as limited and shallow results—along with absolutely no real actionable data about students and important information for teachers—and in the not too longer run it provides nothing substantial for administrators as well.
Today, no one in education should center any education plans, or action, based on how well students raise their hands. If hand raising is considered class participation, and used in grading, it is impossible to substantiate. Additionally, no teacher observation should have raising hands a priority on the checklist, and it should not have much meaning in a teacher’s evaluation. “All the students participated throughout the class by raising hands.” Really, if that’s happening, it takes a short walk-through to know it. Discovered today, it can be addressed today, and then quickly made right.
A classroom, today, needs to have computing, or handheld devices for every students, which makes it capable for every student to offer feedback on the minute, throughout a class, and every teacher to get the same, as well as interact with each student—as an individual and as part of the group. If it costs something to make this happen, so be it. It needs to be done, and it’s probably close to a quarter century overdue. The substantial daily, teaching and student learning data collected, in this way, will leave little doubt as to what students know, and if what educators teach is being learned, as well as how to proceed—each day, week, month, and year. That knowledge is important for teacher-student conferences, teacher-parent conferences, teacher-administrator meetings, and planning that make sense in so many ways. Hand raising is no better than a guess, and it isn’t even a good one. Today’s schools need to take advantage of this century’s tools, and know-how to make a real difference in student achievement. We cannot afford to leave any students behind.
Recommendation: If you’re looking to get beyond hand raising, and need some help in the right direction, please try Promethean and ClassFlow. Get the classroom, school, and district student data you need, and leave the hand raising for choosing sides at recess.
About the Author:
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.