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What are the two types of Cold-Calling in the classroom?

What are the two types of Cold-Calling in the classroom?

4 min read
  • Questioning, Cold-Calling & Wait Times

People often have a very strong reaction to Cold-Calling. Its advocates highlight its potential to increase participation and learning and coax shy students into actively discussing their learning in class. Others worry that it can make students even more stressed and nervous about participating.

According to a recent new study which adds a lovely bit of nuance to the Cold-Calling discussion, it actually turns out that both can be true.

So, how can it help you make the most out of Cold-Calling in your classroom? Let’s discuss:

  • What Cold-Calling is
  • The two different types of Cold-Calling
  • Some strategies to implement Cold-Calling in your classroom

What is Cold-Calling?

Cold-Calling is a teaching strategy that can significantly enhance student engagement and participation. It involves selecting a student to answer a question or contribute to the discussion, whether they have volunteered to do so or not.

But contrary to popular belief, Cold-Calling is not merely about picking a student to answer a question. It’s a more complex process that can be divided into three stages:

  1. The preparation stage – The teacher sets up the task and establishes a participation framework.
  2. Actual Cold-Calling – The teacher directly addresses a student with a specific question.
  3. The post-question stage – The student answers, and the teacher responds.

The teacher’s approach during these stages plays a crucial role. Their posture, facial expression, gestures and words all contribute to the effectiveness of Cold-Calling.

What are the two types of Cold-Calling?

A recent study by researchers from several universities in Germany analysed video recordings of 53 Maths, Science, Art and Languages lessons of 15 teachers from four secondary schools. They then reviewed 86 occurrences of Cold-Calling and went through a complex analysis to deduce the type of Cold-Calling and its potential impact.

They found that Cold-Calling can be categorised into two types:

1. Collaborative Cold-Calling

    This approach frames Cold-Calling as an ongoing conversation, creating a collaborative thinking environment to tackle complex problems. It views Cold-Calling as a form of invitation to join the discussion. In this format, students are encouraged to actively participate, share ideas and contribute to the ongoing dialogue.

    2. Unconditional Cold-Calling

      In this type of Cold-Calling, students are expected to comply and feel obligated to participate. This format takes a much more rigid “question-answer” format, which can result in a shallower form of discussion.

      So, what did the research find?

      The researchers found that the subtle nuance between these two types of Cold-Calling yields very significant differences in their results.

      Collaborative Cold-Calling helps students feel that they belong in that lesson; that their opinion is valued and that they have something to actively contribute to the lesson. It is not a far leap to suggest that this enhanced psychological safety could lead to richer conversations that yield greater learning gains.

      On the other hand, unconditional Cold-Calling enhances nerves and stress. The obligation to comply coupled with the blunt question-answer format can put students on edge. It is perhaps then unsurprising that when they experience it this way, many would shy away from using Cold-Calling themselves.

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      3 ways to enhance collaborative Cold-Calling

      When utilised effectively, Cold-Calling can transform your classroom into a dynamic learning environment where every student’s voice matters. Here are three key areas to consider:

      1. Establish a positive classroom culture

        Before implementing any Cold-Calling strategy, it’s crucial to create an encouraging and safe learning environment. This involves setting clear expectations, emphasising the importance of participation and fostering a culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning, creating a sense of psychological safety in your classroom.

        2. Reflect on Wait Times

          Wait times, sometimes referred to as “Thinking Time”, refer to the time between asking a question and soliciting a response. Evidence suggest that it can enhance the quality and quantity of answers, as well as reducing the numbers of students responding with “I don’t know”.

          3. Think, Pair, Share

            brilliant recent study found that when students have the opportunity to think of an answer and then discuss that with a partner, it makes them more likely to participate in class. This seems to be especially true for nervous students. This is probably because it serves as a validation for what they were thinking in a non-threatening way. Using this as an antecedent to Cold-Calling could therefore yield brilliant participation.

            Final thoughts

            Cold-Calling, when used effectively, can be a powerful tool in promoting student engagement and inclusivity. This research suggests that Collaborative Cold-Calling yields richer responses and fosters a more motivated and less anxious classroom. By creating an inclusive and collaborative learning environment, you can empower your students to engage in meaningful discussions and develop critical thinking skills.

            This is just one of the many ways in which Cognitive Science can help transform Teaching & Learning in your school or college. Join the Teacher CPD Academy today to learn more…


            About the editor

            Bradley Busch

            Bradley Busch

            Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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