As teachers, questions are possibly the most valuable tools available in our educational arsenal. "The Right Way to Ask Questions in the Classroom" article addresses some interesting problems that can occur when asking questions within the classroom setting. The main issue that Mr. Ben Johnson, the author, addressed is the lack of participation by 100 percent of the class. An interesting solution that is given is to ask a question and then wait for a few seconds before calling upon a student to answer. This few seconds of not knowing whether or not they will be called upon will lead all of the students to be thinking of an answer instead of just one student carrying the brunt of the work.
Another interesting article delivered to us via Washington University in St. Louis,
"Asking Questions to Improve Learning" gave some intuitive guidelines for what qualifies a
good question. In the article, the distinction is made between an "open ended" and a
"close ended" question. The defining aspect of an "open ended" question is that it
inspires thought about the multiple responses that could be argued as correct, whereas
a "close ended" question is set to a yes, no or a specific answer. The article advises
to use a mix of these two types of questions and to follow up "close ended" questions with
other questions to continue the train of thought. The idea of appropriate responses to
student's answers was also brought up, and the suggestions of positive affirmation as well
as not interrupting and applying follow-up questions to weak answers, as a way of leading
the students toward the correct response should be taken to heart.
The final article that I will address in this particular blog post is "Three Ways to Ask Better Questions in the Classroom" by Maryellen Weimer, PhD. Dr. Weimer utilizes
this article to review the idea of molding questions for the classroom. This molding
can be done by preparing the questions beforehand, leaving a question unanswered for a
time, and preserving particularly good questions. Of course the idea of preparing a
question beforehand is self-explanatory, but nonetheless, the practice will provide one
with the ability to refine the question so that it is not muddled and confusing. The
second premise is a little more tricky as it may seem nonsensical to not answer a question
immediately. However, if the question is left unanswered, then the students will be left
to ponder solutions of their own thereby exercising their reasoning and critical thinking.
Of course the instructor will give an answer to the question after some time, preferably
at the end of the session or at the beginning of the following session. The idea of
preserving questions is simply to save questions that turn out to be true gems in order to
expose students in later classes to the same thought provoking queries. These three ideals
if used in conjunction can lead to the fabrication of some truly introspective questions.
As teachers, the process of asking questions should always be coupled with a second
question, "What will they learn from answering this?" This second question will undoubtedly
lead the instructor to structure many questions using a mix of "open and close ended"
patterns and take the time to prepare them beforehand. Coupling this along with leaving a
question unanswered as well as proper responses to student answers will lead to a
stimulated learning environment. In closing, the main point teachers need to know
about asking questions is to understand that questions are a form of teaching. They can be
just as informative as a lecture, and they should be treated as such. Remembering that a
question's purpose is to inspire thought and not to illicit an immediate response is the key
using queries effectively.
In honor of the topic of questions, I will leave you with a beautiful rendition of the
confrontation between Oedipus and the Sphinx created by Duke Yin.