School Bans Students from Raising Their Hands to Answer Questions

Why not let teachers decide what method works best for their classrooms?

Samworth Church Academy, a high school in Nottinghamshire in the U.K., has banned its students from raising their hands to answer questions because it is unfair to students who do not raise their hands.

In a letter explaining the policy, Samworth principal Barry Found called hand-raising an “age-old practice.”

“We find that the same hands are going up and as such the teaching does not challenge and support the learning of all,” he said, according to an article in the Daily Mail.

Samworth teachers have been instructed to forbid hand-raising in their classrooms and instead call on students at random to answer questions — which is completely and totally ridiculous.

Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with calling on students at random in itself. When I was in school, most of my teachers used a combination of both hand-raising and random call-outs, depending on the situation. If they — being the professionals that they were — noticed that the same students were raising their hands over and over again, they would usually say something along the lines of “Does anyone else have the answer? You’ve been quiet back there, how about you?” and that seemed to work pretty well. Honestly, I really can’t see any benefits to banning hand-raising completely — but I certainly can see some problems.

First of all, as Jane Crich of the U.K.’s National Union of Teachers told the Daily Mail, an administrator’s making a blanket rule prevents the teachers from being able to decide how to best teach their own groups of students.

“Any professional teacher should be trusted to teach a particular topic in a particular style according to the class they have,” Crich said.

Crich is correct. Not only are the teachers the professionals at — spoiler alert! — teaching, but they are also the ones who are spending every day with their students, meaning that they probably have a better idea of what does and does not work for them than an administrator who passes them in the hallways.

#related#Hand-raising also allows students to decide which questions they feel the most comfortable answering. Everyone has good and bad subjects; everyone has good and bad days, and allowing hand-raising gives students the chance to answer the questions that they feel the most confident answering. Denying students who are excited about a particular subject the opportunity to proudly display their knowledge of it takes the fun out of learning, and knowing that you might randomly be called on when you weren’t paying attention because your dog died last night certainly does the same thing. Of course, there are always those students who just never raise their hands to answer questions, and those students certainly would be fair game for something like a random call-out. But again, that’s something that can be handled on a case-by-case basis, and handling things on a case-by-case basis is exactly what this policy forbids.

Make no mistake: There are few situations more nuanced and complicated than leading a room full of developing humans. Some students are motivated to study by the excitement of getting to shoot their hand up in class, and others are motivated by the fear that they will be called out anyway. Each classroom is a mix of all kinds of people with all kinds of learning styles, and so it only makes sense to give teachers as many options as possible to teach them.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online

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