Short teacher statements yield student discourses

In the workshop last weekend, Dylan Wiliam would have us discuss at our table, then vote with our fingers, then he would draw out responses from the audience with statements, “You chose option A”.  I didn’t even notice what he was doing until he spelled it out for us.  He claimed that if you just make a statement, people will spill out what they are thinking. I wasn’t totally convinced even though I had evidence from that day suggesting that his claim was valid.

However, when I tried it in the classroom I was stunned.  I gave a series of multiple-choice questions and the students chose “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D” (or a combination of the letters) then I would simply state a student’s choice(s) and low and behold, they just offered their entire train of though in selecting that answer.  It was incredible and it gave me an instant view into how their minds were working.

At our faculty meeting this past Monday my colleague and I presented a teaser on what we learned at the Dylan Wiliam conference.  During the presentation we had teachers do some finger voting.  I then looked at individuals and stated how they voted.  The adult faculty responded the exact same way as the students did!  Each person immediately plunged into the reasoning behind their voting!  It was so enlightening. 

Given the immediately results of attempting this technique in the classroom, I do believe I will be able to make it a consistent part of my teaching.  Indeed, statements and restatements yield revealing discourses by our students.