Calling on Students by Name in a Large Class

Dr. CanelasDorian Canelas clearly enjoys her students and teaching. So how and why would she put her students on the spot by calling on them at random to answer questions in her 100+ person chemistry class? She discussed her techniques during a session at our 2015 Center for Instructional Technology Showcase.

First, she sets the students expectations and establishes a “we’re all in this together” attitude from the beginning of the course.  She begins by calling on students by name, asking them what their plans are after Duke. Since she teaches chemistry, the usual response from students is “medical school.” She calls on several students, to demonstrate that students have similar goals. She then asks for a show of hands for who is not going to medical school, and tells those students, “Excellent. I never wanted to go to medical school either. We are all in this together.” She demonstrates both that she will call on students anstudent answering questiond that she is interested in their responses, and begins to establish a community among her students.

During future classes, she asks a question and then draws a student names from a container to determine who will answer it. (“Don’t worry,” she advises other instructors, “you will mess up the pronunciation. Lots. Get used to it.”) If a student responds, that student gets a bonus point.

She has several techniques she uses if she thinks students may struggle with a question:

  • Offer multiple choice options so that the called upon students can answer A, B, C or D.
  • Call on three students in rapid succession to answer a single question so that the spotlight isn’t on any one student.
  • Give the students time to talk about the answers with their neighbor before being called on (Think-Pair-Share).

Calling on individual students helps her know where the students are struggling. In addition, the classroom feels more like a place where student input is valued, and students are more comfortable asking questions and talking.

Read more about how Dr. Canelas flips her classroom to teach chemistry at Duke.

3 thoughts on “Calling on Students by Name in a Large Class

  1. Amelia Roster

    More teachers like Dr. Canelas are needed who pursue innovative methods and ensure that the students stay engaged and enthusiastic about their classes. Keep up your good work in the future.

  2. andrew

    He he…teacher this is what I say best duke teachers….they are the best teachers in the world

  3. andrew

    teacher this is what I say best duke teachers they are the best teachers in the world

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