Using random call to improve classroom equity and inclusion

Thanks to all who came out for the December 13th Large Class Workshop and Celebration. There was a great turnout, and it gave us a chance to try out many of the new features of the 150 Columbia renovated classroom. Three unique qualities of the room are that it has glass “whiteboards” (they are actually yellow) on the walls for students to write on, it has cameras that can project the students or the whiteboards onto the overhead screens, and the seats are organized in clusters so that it is easier to reach students and answer their questions.

Since I had a list of attendees to draw upon from the RSVPs, we were able to playfully engage in the process of “random call” during the workshop. To be clear, random call in this case is used to achieve equity in participant air-time, not to encourage students to attend class or pay attention. I was introduced to the idea by my colleagues at the University of Washington, Jennifer Doherty, Mary Pat Wenderoth, and Scott Freeman, who use random call in their 600-seat classroom with a balcony. They started using random call because they noted that although 60% of the students in their classes were women, the men in the room answered questions in class 60% of the time. At UW, I observed the use of random call while I sat in the balcony of the 600-student classroom. Dr. Doherty had a list of student names, and after an active learning activity in which students interacted with one another, she called out a student name. They could answer, say pass, or simply not respond – in which case she would call another name. Remember, the goal is to provide the opportunity for the person called to share-out the group’s ideas, not to take attendance or judge the student in any way. No pressure. Just an invitation.

I plan on implementing random call this winter in my 280 student Human Physiology II course in 156 Straub. What are you planning to do this winter to make your big class feel small?

Sierra Dawson PhD
Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs
Department of Human Physiology

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *