I was in a class recently and a professor was explaining to us that once, when a student blurted out “Why are we learning this?”, he decided “you know, that’s such an important question that we need to answer that frequently!” And so he set a 15-minute timer to go off in his class so that every 15 minutes, they would answer the question “Why are we learning this?”
Now, I’m not sure how “far back” he went–I suppose obnoxious students could continue responding to answers with “Why?” ad nauseum–but at the very least, to get students re-centered and re-focused on the big picture, it sounds like a great idea. I’m not about to start it because I’m worried about time constraints in class, and I’m already prone to tangents, but it does sound like a great challenge. Could my students, every 15 minutes in class, answer that question? I don’t know. It’s one more thing (an important thing!) for me to consider when preparing lessons and while teaching.