What can we do as educators to help students break the deer in the headlights effect and help them be prepared to answer questions in class?
One method I use in the classroom is to simply tell students before I cover an idea that they will be asked to answer a question on what I am about to cover. If the student(s) know ahead of time that there is a specific question I am going to ask them shortly, they tend to pay very close attention and are prepared when the promised question is finally asked. A small variation on this is to tell them the question you will be asking prior to covering the content so that they can listen up for an answer and give it happily when they are eventually asked the promised question.
Using this method has gotten a great deal of attention and recall from the students who usually have trouble engaging with class discussions.