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!