By Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law and Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law
In a large classroom or in a zoom setting, sometimes it’s difficult to encourage two-way communication so that students can share thoughts with the professor. Use of “silent signals” can facilitate real-time feedback and communication from students so that the professor can accurately assess the classroom climate.
First, what kind of silent signals? You can ask for simple gestures like a thumbs up or thumbs down. When I use this method, I have the students hold their signal close to their chests so I can see the signal but most of their colleagues can’t. This may help the students feel more anonymous. The same hand gestures work on zoom, or you can use the options under “reactions”—thumbs up, thumbs down, arrows, stop sign.
Next, signals in response to what? Anything you might need feedback on. Comprehension of the topic or the sample problem. Pacing of the conversation. Voting on how a hypothetical case will come out. Expressing opinions on whether you agree with the dissent’s position. I use the thumbs up or thumbs down method to measure students’ comprehension of a concept we just covered. The same method is a quick way to poll the students as well.
As with many teaching techniques, be careful not to overuse signals. But in limited doses, they can be an effective way to take the temperature of a classroom.
Adapted from Elizabeth F. Barkley & Claire Howell Major, Interaction Lecturing: A Handbook for College Faculty 156-57 (2018).