Walk into any government school, and you’ll often hear some sort of chanting coming from the classrooms.

It’s tempting to think it’s the sound of learning, but in most cases, it’s not.

It’s actually the sound of (some) students blurting out answers to teachers’ questions, while other students mumble along to cover for their lack of understanding. This all-at-once answering system is widespread in schools and is largely a waste of time. This is because it provides no useful feedback to teachers about their students’ learning, but at the same time gives teachers the impression students are learning. Here’s an example of All At Once (password: janauddhar):

The other approach is the one-by-one approach; asking students to take turns answering a question. This approach has the advantage of giving a teacher clear feedback about a student’s learning, especially if it is the teacher who chooses which students answer, rather than the students self-selecting by putting their hands up. However, the big drawback is that it is very slow. You can only get feedback from a limited number of students during a lesson. Here’s an example of One By One (password: janauddhar):

So what’s the answer? We’re trying to encourage teachers to use a one-by-one-all-at-once approach (OK – we need to work on its name). That is, an approach where students answer individually, but all at the same time. One way to do this is to ask each student to write the answer on a mini blackboard, or simply in their copy book, and then hold it up to show their answer.

Or for right / wrong questions (e.g. is this number a prime or a compound number?) give students cards with ‘prime’ written on one side and ‘compound’ on the other, and ask them to hold up the correct answer all at once. The teacher can quite quickly scan the class to check for understanding and then re-teach or move on.

This approach allows teachers to check individual students’ progress, but all at the same time. You can see examples of this at 0.24 and 2.00 in this video (password: janauddhar):