July 9, 2004, by Teaching at Nottingham

Asking questions of students in lectures

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Liz Sockett: “Your average class, I would probably break it about 4 times with a straightforward question. In many of the subjects I teach it is easier to ask a question than in prions because I know that the chances of someone out here having had a relative with a prion disease is very rare – there is only 130 in the UK.

There are many more times where I can give examples of:

  • “Who’s got relatives who work in hospitals?” and
  • “Do they go to work in their uniform?”
  • “Do you think that’s a good idea?”
  • “Do you think that’s a safe thing to do?”
  • “A lot of much more domestic microbiology questions

“So I do do that quite a lot, and they respond. It’s quite usual that 3 or 4 hands go up in a class this size and people will quite willingly offer comments. I like that about even a class this size. There are 150/160 kids in this class.”

Interviewer (from offscreen): “And they’re 1st years?”

Liz Sockett: “Yes they are 1st years and from Day 1 if you establish that you are going to do “question and answer” with them – that’s great because they will do it.


“Prion diseases weren’t well known until really the 1980s when more research was done on them.But there were as I say, some known predispositions to getting this degenerative brain disorder.

“Has anybody heard of this disease called kuru? Wave if you have.

“Yes, do you know anything about kuru?

(Inaudible response from the audience).

“So kuru was a disease that was known from the 1940s, 50s and 60s and it was restricted to a group of people who still practised a form of human cannibalism.

(Inaudible comment from the audience)

“Yes, you are quite correct.

“The way this cannibalism worked was that it was thought good to eat the brains of your forebears. So if someone in your family died and had been a great person, it was an honour to eat their brain and that would transfer across to you some of their properties.


“We just have an atmosphere where people will ask things. A lot of people will come up in the coffee break (and this is a great slot because I have 2 hours, so in the coffee break people come and ask me things) and I will use them in the 2nd half.

“If someone has asked me something good, I’ll use it in the second half.”

Liz Sockett
School of Biology.

Liz is lecturing on Microbiology (module code C41105) to approximately 150 first year students in a QMC lecture theatre. Produced July 2004.
This video was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection.

Posted in Lectures