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by Benny Ligues

During the Austin Lilly Conference for Teaching and Learning this year, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation that discussed one of the best teaching techniques I have come across. That is not to say the rest of the presentations were not as good. They were all very inspiring and informative and if you took the time you could easily find a way to implement them into your curriculum. But this particular presentation especially caught my interest.

At the beginning of the presentation, the presenter handed out a sheet of paper with a short description of an incident that happened at a place of business. The entire story was only about five to six sentences long. Along with that sheet of paper, she also handed out one with six sentences/questions. Once everyone was seated and ready, she read the short story very slowly and carefully so everyone could catch the whole story. She carefully repeated the story in the exact way she first said it. Then she asked everyone to answer each of the questions with a T or an F, for true or false. After everyone was done, she then asked how many answered the first question true or false, and why. After a very short discussion many people immediately started changing some of their answers.

Below you will find an example of the story and three of the sentences/questions on the second sheet of paper. This is not exact, but will give you an idea of how this exercise works.

“A businessman turns off the light to the store. A person walks in the store and demands money. The store owner immediately opens the register. He takes the cash register’s contents and rushes out. A police officer is immediately notified.”

  1. This incident happened at night.
  2. The robber is a man.
  3. There were two people in the store.

On the first sentence most people put a “T”, but when they discussed the story a little, some people realized that the description could be referring instead to the idea that they didn’t need the lights on, maybe the sun was shining in brightly thru some windows. On the second question, participants realized that it was never said that there was a robbery occurring.

The whole idea behind this exercise is to show how important it is to ask questions when someone is lecturing, presenting or just having a conversation. One cannot just assume that they caught everything or understood what was trying to be conveyed. This exercise is something I believe will open a door to showing students how important it is to ask questions, even when they think they understood everything they heard. I believe you can compare it to a math problem. When an instructor shows a student how to do a math problem, they also give them a way to check it. Asking questions a way to check to see if you correctly understood what you heard.

I think that if you practice this exercise with your students every three to four weeks, it will remind them of the importance to do these self-checks and the results should enhance their learning process.