What is the opposite of favouritism?

numeracy leaders teachers Aug 29, 2023

You may or may not know that both my parents are teachers. Interestingly, my Year 6 daughter wrote in her yearbook that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up- building a dynasty, one generation at a time!😂

My mum actually taught at my Primary School. She was our PE teacher and took my class for one lesson per week.

I remember this was quite a challenge because I felt like I was never picked to do anything in our PE lessons. If there had to be leaders chosen for a game, or someone to model a technique, despite me putting my hand up very enthusiastically every time, mum seemed to never choose me!

In Year 6 I remember confronting her about this 'injustice'! I asked: “why do you never choose me?”.

She was quite shocked by my question, thought deeply for a few minutes and then replied: "I guess I don’t want to look like I am favouring you."

I remember explaining that I felt that this was a clear case of ‘anti-favouritism’!

Looking back (with my teacher hat on) I can now see that mum was was in a challenging situation.

She had to remain neutral, and treat everyone fairly in the class (even though I thought this wasn't the case).

And I needed to accept that I was probably in a 'no win' situation. 

Let's face it, there wasn't much chance of me convincing dad to 'go into bat for me' and contact the principal explaining my feelings of 'grievance'. 😂

These 'fun' times in PE class came to mind the other day, as I was reading through the Explicit Direct Instruction book by Ybarra and Hollingsworth.

They were talking about the importance of selecting 'non-volunteers' in a classroom situation.

A 'non volunteer' is essentially choosing a student to answer a question who doesn't have their 'hand up'.

I thought back to my own teaching. I have been guilty on many occasions of simply choosing the students who has their hand-up.

There are so many decisions we make every minute as teachers. We are keen to keep the lesson moving (you don't want them sitting on the floor for 20 minutes) and we want to keep everyone engaged, but by choosing the students with their hands up we are often getting a inaccurate picture of the level of understanding in the room. It is bit like asking teachers who are rostered on yard duty that day if they are hoping it will rain... the sample is skewed!

One strategy I have seen work successfully (and is mentioned in the EDI book) to address this is to have a cup with icy pole sticks and the name of individual students written on them at the front of the room.

Every time you ask a question, choose a random icy pole stick and that is the student that needs to answer the question.

Note: You need to make sure you are putting back the icy-pole stick each time (otherwise students will tune out and think- I have 26 more questions before I will be asked anything again!)

This strategy ensures that you are truly getting a random sample of your class and you can make an informed judgment on whether you can move on in your instruction or you need to revise the idea again.

It also ensures that students are expected, primed and ready at any point to answer a question. Coasting or disengagement is not permitted because at any minute you might be selected to respond!

If the student doesn't know the answer, you can say "Have a little think, I will ask someone else and come back to you".

Now they may just be parroting the answer that the next student says, but that doesn't matter! They are engaged, listening and they think they have answered the question correctly- something they may not have done if we were just choosing volunteers.

So this week I encourage you to take notice of who you are selecting when you ask a question in maths class.  Are you choosing 'non volunteers'? or 'volunteers'?  you might even like to consider trying the icy-pole stick routine.

This would have been a game-changer for me in mum's PE classes! ;)


Want to learn more from Dr Ange Rogers? Click here to find out about her 'Quality Place Value Assessment in Years 3-6 Mini Course'

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