I subscribe to a newsletter from a university I enormously respect. This morning I opened it to find this image of hands raised. This meme of education has existed for long enough. Looking at the students above, you’ve got to say:

1) This looks staged.

2) The students don’t look like they have a question to ask. (Asking a question is a great reason to allow hands to be raised.)

3) The students are, therefore, raising their hands to answer a question posed by the teacher… and supposedly, this is a good teacher because 100% of the students have the answer.

This is unrealistic and is not a good role model for a successful classroom. I do not encourage hands to be raised with an answer. Why not?

First, because you want to ask random students to answer. That way you get a true picture of how many students understand what you are trying to teach. Don’t live in an illusion created by your gifted extroverts!

Second, because hand raising with answers is intimidating. One of your jobs is to protect the ponderous problem solvers who just need a little bit of time to think. If hands shoot up before they have an answer, they have been robbed of full hearted success – even if they eventually come up with a cool answer.

There are two good reasons to have hands raised.

1) A student has a question.

2) You want to poll your students. “How many students think that this puzzle may be impossible?”

The second will not work well because of classroom inertia. Few students will raise there hand in response to a polling question. A better way to do a poll like this is therefore to say “All students raise your hands. Now… only those students who think this puzzle is impossible bring your hands down.”