February 7th, 2008

An Unusual Approach … that Just Might Work!


Are you one of those faculty members (truly we are legion) who has trouble talking too much in classroom discussions? I know, everything we have to say is so wonderful and so needs to be said. But we all know that the more we talk, the less we hear from students (and that applies both literally and figuratively). Short of duct tape, how do we get ourselves talking less?

Robert Tauber and Cathy Sargent Mester have a most unusual solution: feign laryngitis. They got the idea from a colleague who did. The class was scheduled to do a wrap-up discussion of an earlier, off-campus field experience. The instructor wrote a note on the board and told students they would have to carry the discussion themselves. They did! Occasionally the instructor would gesture or scribble a note on the board, “explain that idea more,” or “why did it happen that way?” But the students talked and talked and talked.

At the end of the class, much to the students’ surprise, the instructor smiled and said in a normal voice, “See you in class Wednesday.”

I would recommend some sort of explanation on Wednesday. What was the instructor trying to demonstrate—to the students and to him or herself? But I can’t think of a more effective way to curb the urge to talk or make students responsible for carrying a discussion.

[Note: Tauber and Sargent Mester suggest this strategy in the second edition of their book, Acting Lessons for Teachers: Using Performance Skills in the Classroom. It’s a 2007 publication of Praeger, on the Web at www.praeger.com]