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How should you Cold-Call students with SEND?

How should you Cold-Call students with SEND?

3 min read
  • Questioning, Cold-Calling & Wait Times
  • Stress management & well-being

One of the most common questions we get asked when discussing Cold-Calling is: “Should you Cold-Call students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)?”

Cold-Calling can be an effective way to improve class participation and act as a good vehicle for Retrieval Practice. Furthermore, evidence suggests it can be particularly beneficial for shy or nervous students. However, when done badly, it can increase students’ stress – if you’re curious about this aspect and how to avoid it, a rather brilliant research paper discusses some of the nuances when it comes to Cold-Calling.

We were keen to discuss the nuance of this with Director of SENDMattersUK, Gary Aubin as a part of the Expert Insights Series on the new “SEND and Cognitive Science” topic area on our Teacher CPD Academy. He provided us with some excellent insights to help us to understand how to effectively alter Cold-Calling to meet the needs of Students with SEND.

Should you Cold-Call students with SEND?

When it comes to classroom questioning strategies, Cold-Calling is a powerful technique. It involves inviting individual students to join the discussion rather than relying on those who have raised their hands. Filled with good intentions, some might opt to exclude students with SEND from Cold-Calling, fearing the embarrassment that may follow potential incorrect answers.

Though this may be well-intentioned, it can lead to some issues. First, SEND covers a large and diverse range of students. Second, it may signal to the student (and indeed the class) that the expectations around participation and learning are lower for them.

The question shouldn’t be whether you should Cold-Call students with SEND, but rather: what are the strategies we can put in place to ensure all students feel confident in joining the classroom discussions?

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How to tailor Cold-Calling to students with SEND

The goal is clear: ensure that Cold-Calling serves as an inclusive practice, encouraging participation from all students, including those with SEND. Here are three possible ways to achieve this…

1. Aim for a high success rate

The intention behind Cold-Calling is never to embarrass someone into paying attention. This can lead to a climate of fear and hostility. If Cold-Calling is viewed as both an invitation to join the discussion and an indication that a student has been selected because they have a high chance of getting it right, then this strategy quickly becomes applicable to all students.

When attempting to answer questions is accessible to all students, every one of them has a chance to engage with the material.

2. Diverse access points

Consider how all students will access the question. Traditional verbal responses might not be the best fit for everyone. Some students may benefit from introducing non-verbal response mechanisms, such as whiteboards for writing answers or using cards to indicate choices.

These methods can provide alternative means for students to express their understanding and putting them in place invites students to share their answers in a way that is less daunting.

3. What does the Scaffolding look like?

For some students, the thought of participating in the class may be very stressful or even anxiety-inducing. Taking a long-term view to figure out what good scaffolding and support look like can help ensure that, over time, your students do develop the confidence and skills to participate. This may mean that what you do early in the year and what you do later on in the term look different.

The aim should be to help students develop these skills so that they all want to participate, as opposed to the short-term comfort of always being able to opt out with a view of never having to participate.

Final thoughts

Adapting Cold-Calling for students with SEND doesn’t mean abandoning the practice altogether. Instead, as Gary explains, it’s about not being “cold about our Cold-Calling.”

Maintaining the principle of engaging every student while being flexible in the way that we implement this ensures that our classrooms remain inclusive spaces where everyone has a voice.

We would like to extend our particular thanks to Gary Aubin for the insights he shared with us. You can see our full conversation with him (and many other experts) on the Teacher CPD Academy, our online platform that helps make high-impact CPD easy. If this is what your school needs, request a free trial today.


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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