Two events occurred in my art history class recently that set me thinking about the role of “quietness” in learning. As I returned the latest writing assignment I was reminded that at least one of my solid A students rarely speaks up in class. She’s a good student – always on time, does well on exams and assignments, participates in group work, but rarely contributes to whole-class discussion. She is probably one of the 33% of students in any classroom who are natural introverts (Cain, 2012). My second encounter with quiet learning came later that evening as we started discussing the role propaganda played in the art of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era. I asked an obvious question: “What is propaganda?” and waited quietly (there’s that word again!) for an answer that would launch the discussion. Nothing. Knowing that students often need at least 10 seconds of reflection before offering an answer I started silently counting … one mississippi … two mississippi … three mississippi … all the way to ten. Still nothing. What do you do when the silence becomes uncomfortable?
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