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10 Reasons why Learners won’t come to the front

25 April 2016

Last Thursday, I was teaching Communications Management as part of my IT Project Management course for this semester. I wanted to illustrate a concept in communications whilst testing learners’ willingness and preparedness to undertake individual presentations. In keeping up with good teaching practices and my teaching resolutions, I asked that someone should come to the front and tell us about himself / herself; I wanted to create an environment for peer learning. However, only four out of thirty-five came to speak. I was surprised that learners at this level hesitated and shied away from public speaking, so I quickly distributed flash cards to them; those who did not speak were to write one reason for their refusal, and those four who spoke, one reason why they did. See what they wrote [see the comments in their handwriting  here].

I find it difficult standing in front of people and speaking.

I didn’t go forward to speak because it wasn’t mandatory but voluntarily.

Public speaking is one of the most difficult aspects of people in life.

I don’t [feel] like talking.

I feel nervous talking in public, however, my head aches.

I feel nervous when standing in front of a crowd.

I prefer writing.

I didn’t know what to say.

I was thinking about what to say until the time was up.

I was not ready to come in front to talk, but you can call me this time around.

These are what the four who came up wrote:

I used to handle meetings and also conduct church activities that made me bold enough to face any group of people.

For my friends to know what [I] am capable of doing.

I came to talk about myself because I feel happy to let people know who I am.

I went to the front to talk because I believe it takes the cooperation of learners for learning to take place.

My Reflections

Learners have varied reasons for certain actions and inactions. I believe that one former lecturer of mine will have understood students not coming to speak as a sign of insubordination. Well, I saw it as an opportunity to empower learners to overcome unnecessary fears they have been entertaining. I also used the scenario to illustrate a computing professionals’ perceived dislike for public speaking and soft skills, and concentration on technical skills. I impressed on them to make the effort to develop their communication skills; as the lesson went on, I asked the learners [who did not speak] several questions as a way of reinforcing the empowerment.

If you are learner, share with me how speaking in front of the class will make you feel, and whether or not you like it. If you are teacher, please let me know on which occasions you will make learners speak in front of the class, and how you will handle a situation where no one comes to speak.

  1. mary permalink

    I allow my pupils to speak in front of the class during presentations(group work)
    When we’re having demonstration lessons too I sometimes call some pupils to the front to act or speak to the class about what we are doing.
    I sometimes also deliberately call a pupil to the front of the class to speak when that pupil is misbehaving. I’ll ask him/ her to tell the class what they’ve learnt so far.
    And I tell you it works like magic. When they take their seat they pay attention.
    If no one comes to the front to speak when I call out I’ll hand pick someone myself.

    • Many thanks for your thoughts, Mary. Your methods are interesting. So what if your pupils now pay attention because they are avoiding coming to the class to speak?
      Is there any trait you intend to develop in the pupils by asking them to speak in front [besides making them pay attention?]

  2. Charles Mensah permalink

    Great one. But bro, my dilemma is why do students even at the tertiary level fail to learn? What kind of reinforcement would make them do so?

    • Many thanks for your comment and question, Charles. With my recent exposure to teaching and learning in higher education, I think the teacher has the responsibility of making the students learn [deeply]. The teacher should assign tasks that will make it interesting for the learner to take responsible to construct necessary knowledge. In class, I structure my lessons such that the learner often shares his/her RPK related to the day’s topic. I also give tasks that are real-world as take-home assignments to reinforce the classroom activity. If anyone has more s/he may add.

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