In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to call on students to get them to participate. They would be fully invested in our courses, and would come to class eager to play an active role in the day’s activities. They would understand that more participation equals more learning. We wouldn’t be sergeants at the front of the room, putting our conscripts through their paces. Rather, we’d be facilitators — helping our students when we can, asking guiding questions,
suggesting new paths of inquiry.
But of course we don’t live in an ideal world. Instructors everywhere struggle with quiet classrooms, with discussions that die before they get started. Our questions hang in the air for what feels like minutes, and students seem to be trying to find out how little they’ll have to do before the end of class arrives. While there are things we can do to create better class discussions, it’s hard to get away from the prospect of cold-calling.