I took government in my freshmen year of high school and was warned by my sister that there would be hot seats each unit. I thought she hyped it up and it'd be fine, but after being in the hot seat for the first time, I felt the whole world's pressure exerted on me.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with hot seats, here's a little run down of them (though it may differ from teacher to teacher). In the start of each unit, your teacher gives you a list of hot seat terms that you will need to study. On the actual day of the hot seat, each student is put on 'the burner' and takes two random terms out of all the terms in the bag. The student can choose one of the two terms to explain to the class. If he or she wants to randomly select a third term, points will be deducted. Same thing applies if the student cannot describe the term fully.
I understand that this is a tool that should benefit students to study and learn the terms on their own. It is a self-learning strategy that they will likely need in college. Another goal of this hot seat is for other students to listen to each other define the terms and hopefully remember them better on the exams. This should be a good tool for preparing students for unit tests and the AP exam, but there are more cons than pros here.
Maybe my take on hot seats seems too radical, but I, along with many other shy public speakers in my class, believe that this is a cruel method used to practically force students to learn the terms. How is it so 'cruel?' This uses public humiliation as a way to encourage us to study. It is unfair to myself and my friends who 1) worry about getting a good grade on the hot seat and on top of that, also 2) worry about not embarrassing ourselves.
Since the first hot seat I had in freshmen year, I have started studying the terms two weeks before the actual date of the hot seat. I have created Word documents defining all of these terms by using numerous resources just to make sure I hit every point. However, human error exists. It is probable that we will land on a term that we know less about than others or mix up terms because we now know a little too much from studying. Aren't there better ways to encourage students to do well than to use public humiliation as a reinforcement?
I won't deny that the idea of a hot seat sounds beneficial. It has good intentions for students' learning. But for me, it's not as much a motive to study; it's more of a motive to not embarrass myself. Most students would disagree with this, but if a teacher's goal is really to prepare us for tests, why not give us pop quizzes instead? This encourages students to stay caught up on the content, to pay attention in class, and to know that they are actually understanding the material.