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Vignette M1

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A student raising their hand in the class
Photo by Marcos Luiz on Unsplash

Vignette M1. Justine’s Story: How do I encourage students to share what they do and don’t understand?

Justine is an early career academic who works in a busy modern languages department. At the start of each seminar, she likes to run a revision activity to check her learners understanding of the concepts and ideas they have been learning about. She typically does this by asking students to volunteer to explain a key concept or answer a question. She wants to create a learning environment where students support each other to learn by helping to correct each others’ misunderstandings or misconceptions – in effect using these as learning opportunities for the whole group. However, she finds, that when she asks for volunteers to explain or answer questions the students are reluctant to put themselves forward so she ends up having to ask someone. The issue then arises that they perhaps demonstrate a misunderstanding or misconception and she is left wondering how to rectify this. Again, she asks for volunteers but none are forthcoming so she ends up offering a corrected explanation herself. Reflecting  on her experiences she says:

I do revision activities because I believe they help students to commit key ideas to memory, and to correct misconceptions – but they aren’t very popular, and I actually don’t enjoy them much. The combination of organizational matters, revision and advance organizer seems to take a lot of steam out of the class.


Justine showed short clip of her teaching in which she taught a group of students. She then reflected on the clip together with a small group of other IntRef participants.

What did the group suggest?

Sophia observed:

when you started to provide explanations for the students you gave the full explanation but maybe you could have given a partial explanation and then checked understanding or invited others to join in


Tabatha then asked about how explicit Justine was about the purpose of the sessions and that they were for the students to check understanding not part of the evaluation as she asked:

Do you say specifically in the sessions ‘remember this is not evaluative, I want you to make mistakes, I am expecting you not to know or this is just so that we are clear‘?


Justine’s Reflections

Reflecting on Sophia and Tabatha‘s comments, Justine thought that:

Maybe I could be more explicit about the purpose of the sessions and remind students it is about checking learning for themselves not me checking up on them


She also liked Sophia’s suggestion of not providing  a full answer at the start but perhaps scaffolding information to bring others in:

Yes I could try that – I just worry that no one else will speak but maybe I need to give them a chance to come in


Vignette M2. Luca’s Story: How do I manage the silence?