Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blog post #4

Asking Questions: What questions do we ask? How do we ask?

Students's hands raised to ask a question

     Teachers are always going to struggle to get every one of their students to engage and participate in discussion in class.  Asking questions of the students is an excellent way to get students to open up in class and participate with their other classmates.  However, asking questions can be just as ineffective as it is effective.  Asking only a closed ended question can be extremely detrimental to a classroom sitting.  A closed ended question only has a yes or a no answer and does not provoke anymore discussion in the classroom.  Example: Did you complete your homework last night? This type of question presents a choice between two answers, yes or no.  Now, these questions may be useful in the classroom by following them with another question.  Using the example above, if the student replied that they did not complete their homework, the teacher could follow up with an open ended question such as: Well, why didn't you do your homework?  Open ended questions invoke responses and do not offer only a choice between few answers.
     Open ended questions are some of the most important in a teacher's array of weapons in teaching.  According to the article, Asking Questions to Improve Learning, open ended questions are often the most effective in encouraging discussion and active learning in the classroom.  The article gives some good examples for some open ended questions for teachers to use in their classrooms.  Some of these are:
  • Can you explain what you mean?
  • How do you know that?
  • What is your initial reaction to this argument?
  • How does that concept apply to this problem?
Ben Johnson's post, The Right Way to Ask Questions in the Classroom, says that students will split themselves into three categories: those who are smart, those who are not, and those that simply do not care.  Students that are in the smart category will be the first to answer a question, correctly or incorrectly.  Students in the not smart category will not answer questions and simply go the whole day with saying anything.  Students that do not care will let others answer or not answer, but they will never be bothered either way.  Johnson offers a solution to this problem.  Teachers ask a question, wait a few seconds, and then call on a specific student.  Once the students get used to the teacher using this method, they will all start to formulate an answer because they do not know if they will be the one called on to answer.  I think this method has great potential in getting students to participate and actually think about the content of lessons-not just skate by with the minimum of understanding needed to pass the class.
     Asking questions is and will always be the most effective tool for a teacher to use in the classroom.  Without asking questions, a teacher has no idea of what their students are actually learning and if they are truly retaining any information.  Effective questions encourage class participation and help the students to become involved in the material.  Involvement will make the information memorable instead of just something for them to keep in the short term memory and forget after the exam.