February 29, 2020 10:37 pm

Raising hand in class
Norman Eng

Over the past couple of weeks, I tweaked my “Question, Quotation, or Comment” (QQC) strategy, which encourages students to come to class more prepared.

And it looks promising.

If you haven’t heard of QQC, I first mentioned it on the Cult of Pedagogy podcast. Here’s a primer on it below—followed by the tweak I made.

We all know what a chore it is to get students to “do the readings.” Yes, it helps if your textbook is at their reading level (don’t assume it is!) and if it’s actually interesting. For certain courses like child development, I’ve ditched formal textbooks and used relevant articles online. Even then, students have a hard time keeping up with the reading. The fact that many of them take six classes each semester just to qualify for financial aid might be factor. My students are awash in information.

So, I make it a priority to remove whatever “friction” might slow down their learning or enthusiasm; in this case, the friction is having students type up a two-page reading response. It is, after all, an added assignment on top of reading.

At the same time, students should still reflect on what they read. The QQC helps.

How does it work? It’s simple. Have students come prepared to class with a question about the reading, a quotation that resonated with them, or a comment about a particular section. And then they explain why they chose that question, quotation, or comment. Students only need to do one of the three—not all three (unless they want to). Here’s an example of a question one student might write on the reading related to psychologist Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development:

I wonder how valid is Piaget’s theory? Apparently, most of his work and research was performed on his own children. Yet he is considered to be one of the biggest names in the field of developmental psychology. Did he validate his ideas elsewhere?

An example of a comment (reflection) on Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development might be:

When the article talks about the guilt that children experience, often as a result of parents focusing on errors and mistakes rather than gains, it reminded me of the way I was raised. My parents rarely praised me, and in fact they often found fault with even my accomplishments. I remember the time I got an award in tenth grade for perfect attendance and my dad asked me when I got home, “Why couldn’t you do this is ninth grade?”

The key to making QQC work is to devote a portion of the following class to sharing. Generally, I find that the QQC strategy gets students to come fairly prepared for class, but the reality is that there isn’t always time for sharing. And more importantly, a large percentage of students don’t get to share, since I “cold-call” only four to five students. All told, the QQC takes up at least 20 minutes of class—in a one hour and fifteen-minute class. Too many students still sat and listened, remaining uninvolved.

So I tweaked it recently.

Why not have students share their QQCs in groups? With five or six per group, each member shares his or her question, quotation, or comment—and then the group reacts. Members can offer their take, ask a follow-up question, or simply move on to the next person. If necessary, provide go-to prompts on the board, like:

  • “Can you elaborate what you mean?”
  • “This reminds of . . .”
  • “I wonder if . . .”
  • “I agree with . . .”

One member is always designated as the moderator, to make sure every student contributes a QQC within the allotted time.

My job? To walk around, listen in, offer my perspective and/or take notes.

Now everyone gets to participate. Even better, students feel more comfortable talking with their peers than to a whole class.

Some days, the QQCs are shared at the beginning of class. Why? To encourage students to clarify any uncertainty from the readings. This really gets them ready—and more confident—to contribute. Informally, I’ve seen more lively discussions among groups and a general enthusiasm compared with the cold-calls I used to do.

Next time your students read a chapter, get them to jot down a question, quotation, or comment. Have them share the QQCs next class in groups. And let me know how it works!

  • I heard of your QQC from the podcast and love it! This tweak is very helpful – will try it next class. This was very helpful!!

  • Thanks Norman. To take my QQCs up a notch, I’m experimenting with integrating Flipgrid. One of challenges of teaching across modalities is replicating the students’ learning experience from the classroom to the course room.
    I’ve found a friend in Flipgrid because a) it integrates with the learning management system
    b) it’s very simple for students to engage with regardless of their modality (F2F, Online, Blended, etc.)
    c) it’s priced right for educators…because it’s free.

    • Eugene, Flipgrid is a great tool and a great idea to integrate with QQCs! I’ve also been thinking of an online component to this. Will try this or even Padlet, a similar app.

      • Thanks, Norman! I’ve recently found this site and love it! I teach mainly asynchronous online courses and use Flipgrid for discussion questions. I would like to hear about your experience implementing QQCs using Padlet.

  • This sounds very promising. Asking for a written response also means that the instructor has to read their work! I’m still thinking though that something more formal might occasionally be useful if only in something especially important, controversial, or difficult.

    • Hey Ted, I only check QQCs twice a semester, so students hand in reading responses #1-7 mid-semester and #8-15 toward the end. This is the accountability mechanism. Other than that, I don’t read their QQCs each class. It is used more as a discussion generator.

  • I teach the fifth and final year of a. Electrical Apprenticeship program.
    The students range in ages from the early 20’s through the 50’s. There is equal diversity in ethnicity, education and backgrounds in each of my classes.
    The common ground between all of them is their desire to complete the program and to be able to not have to come back to school any longer and have their evenings free.
    Our school is night school and happens after a full 8 hour day on a construction site.
    By the time I get them they have already had a full day’s work under their belts and they would rather be anywhere but in class.
    Our curriculum is arranged in such a way that the students always have reading assignments between classes and outclass work consists of discussion and questions
    About the material in the reading assignment. Trying to get them to read the assignments is like pulling teeth. The lessons are generally presented on line with the use of occasional Text books and other relevant printed material. There are homework questions that the student is supposed to answer before coming to class. We track the results of these home work questions and can tell if a student read the assignments or got the answers to the homework questions from a friend.
    Any ideas to make the homework reading more agreeable are greatly appreciated
    The QQC sounds like a great Idea. I’m anxious to give it a try in my classroom

    • Hi Tommy, let me know how QQC works in your class. I understand that student motivation is very low after a full day’s work. Perhaps videos, if appropriate and available, can substitute the readings? Otherwise, maybe in this case we need to flip the structure and give the bulk of the info in class rather than outside of class. The challenge, of course, is to keep the content engaging too…

  • I like this as the focus of a group discussion! I’m going to try it out. Mad props to Cult of Pedagogy too — Jennifer Gonzalez has some great ideas over there.

  • I just started reading your book and I love your ideas already, I already use the circle idea every class and want to incorporate more of your ideas

  • Great idea, with a very useful tweak.
    Going to think about how I can use it with my business law class going on line a week ago.

  • Hello, I have been using QQC for 2 semesters now for a reproductive health course. Students submit QQC every class on a specific article for about two months. It has increased their knowledge on several topics. I do not use it for discussion but as preparation for them to be able to apply that knowledge through group activities such as scenarios, developing strategies and so on.

    • So glad to hear the QQC helps! It can definitely be used in a wide variety of ways beyond discussions. Thanks for writing.

  • Your newsletter really gets my creativity flowing as I am planning next year’s classes. I love this tweak! I plan to have the groups get together as they enter the class and do this while I am taking attendance, stragglers arrive, etc…the wasted first 5 minutes of class. It will help focus them on the material and get the groups prepared to work together. I’ll put the questions on the board to check off as we go through the material for the day.

  • I love the tweak you made to provide opportunities for students to share their QQC in small groups. I think this discussion generator will help students rehearse and crystalize their thinking, as well as hear one another’s perspectives.

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