Snacks in the Classroom: One Professor’s Method for Students to Work in Teams

This is an interesting story about one professor who refuses to teach his psychology class (lab) if the students fail to bring snacks to class. It’s a novel way of driving engagement and making students work together for a common goal:

A graduate of Cal State’s Chico campus, [Professor] Parrott said that when he was an undergraduate, courses had 12 to 20 students, and those in a class formed close ties among themselves and with the professor. “Those days are long gone,” Parrott said. The course in question is supposed to have a maximum of 42 students, although this year he has 52 in the section that skipped snack last week. That makes it hard for students to connect. So does the nature of Sacramento State’s student body. “It’s a commuter rat race. Students drive in and go home and never connect with their fellow students,” he said.

Enter the snack requirement: Parrott said that he’s teaching students to work together to set a schedule, to work in teams to get something done, and to check up on one another, since everyone depends on whoever has the duty of bringing snacks on a given week. Typically, no individual should be involved in preparing the snack more than twice a semester, he said.

Parrott said that considerable research shows that students learn more if they develop the skills to work in teams, to assume responsibility for projects, and get to know their fellow students. Team members need to count on one another, he said, and his students learned Thursday that if someone fails at a task for the team, there are consequences. “They need to learn to check on one another and clearly they didn’t get that done,” he said. “This was an important lesson.”

I’m all for this method of teaching. I hope the professor doesn’t get in trouble (the professor recently enforced his rule when the students failed to bring muffins to class). I remember the three hour physics labs in college, and how hungry students would get…


Hat tip: Tyler Cowen.