Educational Fad: Lollipop Sticks

John DabellI trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project… Read more about John DabellDoes anyone still use lollipop questioning?If that’s you then stop, immediately. Why? Lollipop questioning is a glorious waste of time and an educational fad that sucks.Why on earth would you be using lollipop questions in the first place? It’s probably because someone told you it was an ‘amazing’ strategy and their use spread like a pedagogical virus. What is the point?Throw out the lolly sticksLollipop questioning makes some teachers squirm.Tait Coles (2014) in his book Never Mind The Inspectors asks, “Why spend more time deciding whom to ask questions rather than spending time and effort crafting great questions?”Tom Bennett doesn’t care for lollipop sticks either. In fact, he thinks you can stick ’em. He once posted on Twitter “Save $$$ by simply choosing for yourself like an adult.” He was pleasantly surprised to find himself having to dig out his knight’s armour after a backlash of teachers jumped in defence of using them and a Lollipop War ensued.Lots of teachers rely on lollipop questions and use them to avoid the any unconscious bias towards particular children. If that’s the case Tom has a suggestion:“Then that teacher needs to think more closely about how he or she asks questions. If you seriously need lolly sticks to avoid picking children based on preference/ gender/ ethnicity/ agreeability etc then you don’t need lolly sticks, you need a sabbatical and a career adviser.”Tom hates the randomisation of the sticks and points out that “they can potentially be duplicitous, and they potentially undermine the authority and professionalism of the teacher.”Sticky QuestionsAs Richard McFahn says in his blog, “What schools need to do is spend their time and energy thinking about what questioning is for: to help students think through talk.”It is absolutely essential that you ask the correct question in the first place, and then use a mechanism to find a student to answer. If you do it the other way round, first, all the other students can relax, and second, you will probably merely replicate your existing expectations of the student.Used by many teachers in their fast-track induction, lollipop sticks are a neat little trick to ensure that every child takes part in the lesson to appease observers. But, what are they learning and what is the teacher assessing by doing so?As David Didau says, “the power to select who answers our questions should be treasured.” The result? Follysticks. Just ask a question and allow a hands-up culture to thrive.Overall, whatever mechanism you use to ask questions, it’s the quality of your question – who it is targeted to and why – and the quality of feedback that counts.What other Fads have you wasted your time on? Read 20 Years of Educational Fads to find out.Related

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