A typical secondary level classroom on any given day in any particular subject will include questioning as a method for learning. The challenge is, however, the degree of effectiveness in its use. I visited many classrooms while I served as a curriculum specialist and I tried to understand why teachers fell into the "question trap."
Scenario One- a teacher asks a comprehension question, hands go up, teacher calls on a student who had hand raised, student answers question and teacher moves on with the lesson.
Scenario Two- a teacher asks a question, hands go up, teacher answers his own question and moves on with the lesson.
Scenario Three- a teacher asks a comprehension question, student answers, teacher moves on with lesson without follow-up higher level question. Let's look at why all three scenarios are "question traps:"
Scenario One: I challenge you to stop asking questions of students that are pretty sure of the answer, that is, those who raised their hands. Unless it is a "friendly reminder" of the answer, a teacher's job is to seek those who need to know. But if the teacher only calls on students with their hands raised how does he know who needs help?
Scenario One could look like this- a teacher asks a question, hands go up, teacher ignores hands and directs students to "answer question with a nearby partner." (ALL students answer question!) Teacher randomly calls on a partnership and they answer. Teacher encourages class affirmation or rejection of answer. Discussion follows or lesson continues.
Scenario Two: I challenge you to stop answering your own questions! Are you asking and answering for expedience? Are you tired of just hearing wrong answers or "I don't know" answers? Is it a habit? Please allow students to do the hard work of thinking and be confident that, in the long run, making students work for an answer will make them better thinkers! Wait time is hard for teachers to include because they think it's "waste time." Don't fall into this question trap!
Scenario Two could look like this- a teacher asks a question. He states clearly that he will give students time to think and at an appropriate time, asks follow up questions that may lead those who are unsure to the answer. Discussion follows or lesson continues.
Scenario Three: I challenge you to start asking follow-up questions that lead to higher level thinking! If we want our students to think only at basic knowledge and comprehension levels, then proceed with asking only basic level questions. Create the follow-up questions before class begins so that the questioning is deliberate and intentional. Be the Socrates of your classroom and encourage all students to answer questions with you, to you, and with each other.
Scenario Three could look like this- a teacher asks a low-level question. Students answer (see above) and immediately teacher asks a follow-up question that reaches, for example, application of information or judgement of information. Move up the ladder of Bloom's Taxonomy, always pushing students to think deeper.
For ways to enhance questioning in the classroom, click on the "Questioning Protocols" button.
Alison Thetford, M.Ed