Good chairing policies

The Annual Meeting of the Finnish Society of the History and Philosophy of Education wants to promote equality in all aspects and avoid e.g. a gendered conference. Therefore we ask all the chairs of the conference to familiarize themselves and commit to the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme : Seminar chairing policy suggestions found here.

The mainpoints of the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme : Seminar chairing policy suggestions are listed below:

1.Take a short (e.g. 3-5 minute) break between the talk and the questions

This allows those who aren’t confident about their question (e.g. postgraduates) to think it through and/or discuss with colleagues.

2. Don’t necessarily operate on a first-come-first-served basis

Consider allowing the chair to exercise discretion in the order in which they call on people to ask questions, e.g. by prioritising people who don’t normally speak. First-come-first-served prioritises the most confident, who will often be the same people in every session. Also, when writing down a list at the start of the question period, try starting at the back of the room rather than the front.

3. Adopt (and enforce) the hand/finger distinction

A hand represents a new question, and a finger represents a follow-up question or request for clarification that is highly relevant to the question/answer just given. This gives people who tend not to speak the opportunity to ask smaller, ‘safer’ questions.

4. One question per question

Sometimes a ‘question’ will consist of several distinct questions. This often results in one or two high-status (or simply more talkative) individuals monopolising the discussion. The result of this is that fewer voices are heard and existing hierarchies are reinforced.

5. Don’t necessarily grant the questioner a follow-up question

Sometimes a questioner just doesn’t know when to let it lie. You might adopt a ‘no follow-ups’ rule as an extension of the ‘one question per question’ rule, or – more modestly – make it clear that permission (which may or may not be granted) must be sought from the chair to ask a follow-up question, and that failure to do this may result in the questioner being cut off mid-flow.


Last updated: 6.5.2019