Hands Down Children! Pupils Learn 'Twice As Fast' When Banned From Raising Arms To Answer Questions

30/03/2011 11:23 | Updated 22 May 2015

Banning children from raising their hands in class has been shown to improve their academic performance.

In an experiment, a class of 13-year-olds learned twice as quickly when they were not allowed to put their hands up in response to a teacher's question.

Instead, the entire class was forced to write answers on small whiteboards and raise their answers in the air together.

The technique, which was tested for a two-part BBC2 documentary, did not just help the shy and less able children, the programme makers say. It also boosted the results of confident pupils.

The Classroom Experiment – which will be broadcast later this month – also found that making pupils exercise at the start of each day helped academic performance.

Professor Dylan Wiliam, deputy director of the London University Institute for Education, who led the project, said: 'The kids and teachers hated it at the beginning.

'The kids who were used to having a quiet time were rattled at having to do something; the ones who were used to showing off to the teacher were upset.'

The methods were tested on 25 pupils at Hertswood school in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, for a term.

Professor Wiliam said he wanted to stop the minority of bright pupils dominating the class and to encourage the whole class to take responsibility for their behaviour.

As well as banning hand raising, work was only graded when pupils had finished an entire project to encourage them to take account of the teacher's feedback, not just their mark out of 10.

The teacher also monitored a single pupil's behaviour each day – without telling the class which student was being placed under scrutiny – and then offered a reward of a day at Alton Towers if the student behaved.

The move was intended to encourage the whole group to take responsibility for earning the reward.

Professor Wiliam also made children do PE at the start of every day. 'The changes we made gave the quieter children confidence, made all pupils know they are expected to participate and created a more supportive atmosphere – nobody laughs any more if someone gets something wrong,' he said.

'I hope this programme shows how difficult high-quality teaching is.'

After one term, pupils learned at twice the speed of peers not taking part and the school was so impressed by the experiment it is continuing with the techniques.

Hertswood head Jan Palmer Sayer said: 'The difference was tangible – both in achievements and the dynamics of the class.

'Teachers were given clear strategies for improvements which didn't involve spending lots of money on new technology.'

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