Fielding Student Responses

The ways in which an instructor or TA fields a student's response will influence future student participation. Students look to their TAs for guidance and support and it is important to reinforce student participation. If students feel ignored or that their instructor is indifferent, their behavior may be inhibited. Chastised students, and especially those who feel humiliated, may become angry or fearful and will refuse to respond in the future.

The goal then is for the TA to field responses in such a way that the quantity and quality of future responses are enhanced. The following are several tactics for fielding responses.

  • Praise the student for a correct response.
  • Make comments pertinent to a specific student response.
  • Make no comment at all on individual responses in order to generate further discussions, then
  • Make a general comment about the series of responses.
  • Build on a student's response.

Above all, avoid the "Yes, but. . ." reaction. Try one of the following instead:

  • Wait to a count of five with the expectation that another student will volunteer a correct response.
  • Ask "how did you arrive at that response?" Be careful not to ask this question only when you get inaccurate responses. Ask it also when you have a perfectly good response to model problem solving skills for the class.
  • Say "you are right about X and that is great, but you were wrong about Y. Now we need to correct Y so we can get everything right. Can anyone else help out?"
  • Say "thank you. Is there someone else who wants to provide an additional perspective or answer to the question or comment ?"