We brought in four freshmen and pretended that we needed their ratings on a test of emotional expression. I can be a pretty convincing liar. While our guests watched slides of various facial expressions, a minor disruption broke out, followed by a major ruckus, all staged, wherein two of my students stormed out. Then the real test started. Our visitors, now eyewitnesses, had to answer a series of questions about the incident. Overall, their memories were fairly reliable, but when subtly fed with misleading information, they made several significant mistakes—and this was minutes after the incident occurred. Imagine the experience of real eyewitnesses, having to recall what they saw months after a crime. In our case, even the line-ups we staged caused confusion among a few panels of freshmen. By the way, after my two students stormed out, they recruited two others to return to class with them, exchanging sweaters and glasses and whatever else that could be easily swapped.
The next day, we had about a dozen more concepts to cover before the unit test on Friday. Instead of me explaining and describing, I asked pairs of students to present the concepts in the form of a simple skit. Given a chance to rise from their seats and act, even the quietest students shine. If you can get students laughing about concepts such as procedural versus semantic memory, you know you’re doing something right.