PLAYING CARDS IN CLASS, OR HOW TO GET STUDENTS TO ASK QUESTIONS
Adapting this to an undergraduate structural geology class, each student was required to bring two cards with questions about terms or concepts pertinent to the topic of the day to each class meeting. We started the class with playing cards, and I sat with the students while they played their cards. The main benefit of this was that students learned to trust that I was open to any question from the most basic (what are strike and dip?) to more complicated (what controls locations of major earthquakes?), i.e., it was “safe” to ask questions, and that they could stump me, in which case I would find the answer to their question and answer it the following class period. This generally took fifteen minutes of a two-hour class, but it made the lecture portion that followed flow better, with the students seeing where their questions fit into the larger topic of the day. As the term progressed, they could also ask questions about earlier topics that they thought were clear at the time, but then developed some uncertainty about. While I did not log office visits, they appeared to be more frequent when I have used this technique to start off each class period, suggesting that students were more comfortable asking questions in general. They certainly asked more during lectures and lab than in previous classes. In the two structural geology classes in which I used this technique, the students responded positively, and were more engaged overall in the course, as indicated by better work on quizzes and in lab exercises.