The “Any Questions?” effect

So, I took my 6th and 7th periods to a presentation by a speaker from a university who tried to sell a summer program for math, science, and engineering. At the end of the presentation, she asked “are there any questions?”

Dead silence.

“If we’re done here, I can send you back to class and you can get back to work.”

Still dead silence. Finally one student breaks the tension and asks a question.

After answering the question: “And for answering the question, you get this t-shirt.”

With that comment, hands fly up. Questions last for over 15 minutes, and they’re *good* questions, that indicate the students really did have those questions in mind. Water bottles prominently featuring the college’s logo go all over.

I’m reminded of all the times I finish something, and I know what I did is difficult and the students really do have questions but I can’t fish any out. I don’t think it’s as simple as “afraid of appearing to be stupid” — in the story I just gave there wasn’t anything academic to be stupid about. Nor was it simply peer pressure. It’s some odd psychology barrier which can be broke down in the right environment (I have been in a class that felt  like a 12-step session given the amount of inner outpourings) but I have yet to hear an explanation for the Questions Barrier that fully satisfies me.


One Response

  1. I have one word for you:

    That’s one word, right?

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