For some of the classes we teach in our program we take the students out into the Green Bay Botanical Garden to observe various plants, soils, pest issues, etc. We are extremely fortunate to have this facility to do these things in. The one thing you notice is that there are always several students that tend to fall to the back of the pack. I have noticed that it always seems to be the same ones which are also the same ones that tend to have lower grades than the others. Over the last couple of years I have been reversing direction quite a bit. What I mean is I will go past the intended destination and double back into the group of students to get to the spot that I was originally going to stop at which by now is right in front of the students that were at the end of the line. It always creates a little confusion among the group but I have noticed those particular students paying more attention to the subject we are talking about. I have also noticed that if I do this on a fairly regular basis, some of those that were straggling behind are now starting to walk toward the front of the group. This is when I will stop at the exact point I need to, at which time the stragglers will be right in front of me. It does seem to leave the group guessing as to what I might do next and they do stay much closer together as a group.
I have also started employing a similar technique in the classroom. Most of the students that tend to sit in the back of the classroom are the ones that pay the least attention, text more often, ask the fewest questions and are the first out the door at the end. Their grades also tend to be a bit lower than the students that sit in the front of the room. In the last couple semesters I have starting conducting class from the back of the room, if the content of the lessons allows this. For example, if I have a PowerPoint presentation. I have noticed the students, (these creatures of habit), moving to other locations in the room to be less conspicuous. I also notice less texting, greater participation of those that normally don’t and more paying attention the content of the lesson.
The Reversing Direction technique seems to work well for me in the right situations. I know it’s not a cure all, but it does seem to help and at the same time adds a little subtle variety to the material being taught. Have fun.