It's a choice Susan Taft gives her MBA students. The class can choose to take a written quiz at the beginning of every class session (they meet once a week) or they can participate in an oral activity she's dubbed the hat trick. Here's how the hat trick works. Each student's name is put on a card and placed in a hat that Taft brings to the class sessions. During the first hour of this three-hour…
It's a choice Susan Taft gives her MBA students. The class can choose to take a written quiz at the beginning of every class session (they meet once a week) or they can participate in an oral activity she's dubbed the hat trick.
Here's how the hat trick works. Each student's name is put on a card and placed in a hat that Taft brings to the class sessions. During the first hour of this three-hour class, two or three names are drawn from the hat, one at a time. If selected, the student talks about a concept of his or her choosing from the homework assigned for that week. The talk needs to demonstrate a level of familiarity with the relevant vocabulary and understanding of the concept. Taft engages with the student in discussing the concept: “In a gentle way, I orally quiz the selected student on the concept. I may ask hypothetical questions, request illustrations of the concept, or inquire about how it applies to case studies from the reading assignment. In essence, my approach is to lightly press the student for critical thinking and agile application of the material” (p. 93). If Taft hears that, the student gets the full 1.5 points, and the concept is then discussed further by the whole class.
Taft's students consistently select the hat trick over written quizzes, because they think it's less risky. Her grading scheme contributes to that perception. If a student comes to class and is not selected from the hat, that student receives full credit. The hat tricks combined are worth 21 percent of the course grade. If a student is unprepared for class, he or she may take a “pass” and receive no credit.
Despite students' preference for the hat trick and their ability to pick (and one would assume prepare) the concept they'll discuss, it's still anxiety provoking. Taft describes students looking on “with emotion-charged interest” (p. 93). She handles their stress with the “gentle questioning” described above and strives not to have “a poor performance become a humiliating experience” (p. 93). If a student is not doing well, she invites other students to become involved in the discussion. And if a student has selected a concept that he or she does not understand well or is confused by, but the student asks thoughtful questions about it, Taft does not consider that student unprepared, and she awards full credit.
In part, the strategy is successful because it relies on peer pressure. Students (even graduate ones) don't want to look foolish in front of their peers, so they come to class prepared. The hat trick is a highly effective way to develop students' abilities to speak on their feet, and it provides a professional-like opportunity to talk about concepts in the field. For Taft, it's a good way to ascertain how well concepts are being understood—to say nothing of the fact that she has one quiz to grade instead of many.
The strategy is not one likely to work well in large classes where the chance of being selected becomes increasingly remote. In Taft's case, her course enrolls less than 30 students. She's identified the number of hat tricks that creates a random likelihood of a student being selected once or twice during the course; if a student is selected more than that, she may take his or her name out of the hat. It's also a strategy that might be too anxiety provoking for beginning students, although it could be modified by allowing students to provide a summary of what happened in the last class period or by giving students permission to use notes to highlight the concept or a section in the reading. Reference:
Taft, S. (2016). Incentivizing students' preparation for class: The hat trick. Management Teaching Review, 1(2), 91–98.
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