Paige Allison is a high school math teacher and educational anthropology graduate student at the University of Florida. As part of her dissertation research, she used random name-generation software during class to call on students by name.
Her intent was to insure that as a math teacher, she would call on girls as frequently as boys. The study itself was generated because she heard a radio reporter claim that math teachers called on boys more than girls.
In the study, Allison compared the classroom participation rates of students in 15 classes where the randon-name device was used by teachers against those of students in 11 classes where the device was not used. Based on the study's results (and contrary to her expectations), there were no significant differences in participation rates; that is, math teachers did not show a bias in how they called on students based on gender or ethnic group.
So the study and its conclusions should end there, right? Wrong! Allison went on to conclude that the device was more effective because "students paid more attention in class...They felt they had to tune in more, because they had a chance of being called on for every question."
Why do we do such inane research? Shouldn't students always pay attention in order to learn...not just in case they might be called on. And, how many teachers cross a student off their list once they have been called on....?