I spent most of my time preparing for this post by researching the types of questions teachers should ask their students. The resource I found most resourceful, and what I will use most to structure this post is The Learning Center. The main point of the article was that “Active learning extends beyond the classroom,” and that’s what I found most intriguing and influential when reading onward. If students are introduced to asking questions and mastering concepts in school, then they can take those strategies and apply them to their studies outside of the classroom and in other areas of life. Most of the question-structuring points they brought up I agreed with but never would have come up with my own.
The first, and most obvious is: “When planning questions, keep in mind your course goals.” When developing questions to ask your students, you should be able to tie them into what you are learning. If they aren’t structured around the key concepts of your lesson, then chances are you aren’t asking the right questions. The questions you ask should help them develop the skills you are hoping they acquire and to aid in understanding of material you are covering. The questions you ask should make them engage and think deeper about what you are hoping they can take from that lesson and into life.
The next is: “Avoid asking ‘leading questions.'” I have had teachers who are really bad at this one. They ask a question knowing full-well what they want your answer to be. This is an absolute kill to creativity in the classroom. If you expect your students to think on their own, then your questions shouldn’t close off that process. Carefully think out what you ask before you say it aloud. Give your kids a chance to do some of the heavy lifting.
“Follow a “yes-or- no” question with an additional question.” Don’t give your students the easy way out. Maybe they were taking a guess or just spitting out an answer they heard from across the room and aren’t fully understanding any concepts themselves. Challenge them to answer “why?” or give evidence of their answer. If they can prove their answer to you, right or wrong, you know they were thinking about the concepts and problem solving a little on their own.
“Aim for direct, clear, specific questions.” Your goal as a teacher isn’t to trick your students out of answering a problem. Be specific and to the point about what you are asking. When posing a question, try a series of shorter questions in sequence rather than a long, complex question with multiple layers. Your aim is to see whether your students are comprehending material, not whether they can sift through a difficult question to answer what you were hoping for. If your question is aimed at the right material as simply as possible, then your students are able to give their best work and demonstrate back to you as clearly as they can.
A classic way you can avoid a quiet classroom is: “In class discussions, do not ask more than one question at once.” Students, especially the ones who are uncomfortable with speaking aloud or with the material you are teaching will be fearful to respond when they don’t want to be wrong. This phenomena is increased when they don’t know which question you want answered. One at a time will allow for full brain concentration on that question, and less confusion in the classroom. This way will also allow for your students to track with the class discussion better and know what topics you are covering without getting lost.
“When you plan each class session, include notes of when you will pause to ask and answer questions.” The more organized you are with your lesson plan, the more organized the material will be in your student’s notes and heads. Put some care into your planning and think about good placement of discussion and question time. Maybe splitting up into groups and brainstorming could be helpful. Also take into account anonymous questions you can submit by writing questions down when material is tricky and students are fearful of speaking up. Always make yourself open to questions, too. The more open of a layout you have to aid your students’ learning, the more open they will be about asking and learning during class.
The final point was worded so well by the authors that I decided to keep it in their exact words. No two students learn the same, so questions should be posed in a way helpful to each learner. This means different questions sprinkled through at different times. “Ask a mix of different types of questions. You should use “closed” questions, or questions that have a limited number of correct answers, to test students’ comprehension and retention of important information. You should also ask managerial questions to ensure, for example, that your students understand an assignment or have access to necessary materials. “Open” questions, which prompt multiple and sometimes conflicting answers, are often the most effective in encouraging discussion and active learning in the classroom. For examples of “open” questions and the purposes they can serve, see below.”
The website also has a lot of important tips on how to allow your students to respond effectively. These include:
“Wait for students to think and formulate responses.” Give 5-10 seconds before rephrasing the question. Don’t simply answer your question as this will communicate to your students that they don’t have to answer. Continue posing your question until some answers are formulated.
“Do not interrupt students’ answers.” If you aren’t willing to allow your students to finish their responses, it may influence how or if they volunteer an answer in the future. They need that moment to find some ownership of the material and it will help you determine their understanding.
“Show that you are interested in students’ answers, whether right or wrong.” Look engaged and excited about what students are offering in class. Their input is important, and your encouragement can help them find value in the material and in the art of asking questions. If you are interested in them, they will likely stay interested in you and your teaching.
“If a student gives an incorrect or weak answer, point out what is incorrect or weak about the answer, but ask the student a follow-up question that will lead that student, and the class, to the correct or stronger answer.” Make sure they know what might have been not the strongest of answers, but give them another chance. The class can help out, but they shouldn’t feel put down or discouraged by answering incorrectly. Redemption can be a powerful thing.
Pointing out mistakes doesn’t have to be the only way– sometimes turning things back to the class to see what they think is a good way to yield the floor for some new input. If you do this every time a student is mistaken, it becomes a cue.
Also, I can find that if I am asking myself: “What do I want to know?” It will help guide my classroom in the right direction as well. Focus will remain on the topic and relevant to student learning.
Already, after reading that article and watching a few videos about the same material, I have a completely changed perspective on the importance of asking and posing questions in class. I also realized that some of my best and favorite teachers asked questions in similar ways that allowed me to gauge my comprehension and feel comfortable in the classroom. I want to make sure that I allow for full opportunity for all of my students. The use of questions in the classroom can be a major factor in the atmosphere of education and that class in particular. This information will always stick with me as I burst forth into a career in teaching.
Some feedback on this post would be how most teachers acquire this information and skills in this area. Do you find that these things reign true in a classroom setting? Any exceptions to the rule?
Also- here is my reading plan!!