Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Principles of Teaching: The Art of Questioning

     Questioning is always a part of class discussion. It serves a variety of purposes: from calling the attention of students to generating ideas from them. As teachers, it is but important to be able to give quality questions. It enhances not only the learning of the students but it uplifts the atmosphere of our classroom as well.
Here are some of the primary principles of questioning for us teachers. Take note that these are just some. Let experience teach you to become better in eliciting quality answers from our students through asking quality questions to them.

1. Never limit your questions to low level questions. These questions only assess simple recall and does not deeply reflect student learning. Ask a variety of questions that stimulates higher order thinking skills like how, why or what if questions. Take note however, that this doesn’t undermine the importance of low level questions. Yes, low level questions elicit low level thinking answers, but remember that factual knowledge serves as a foundation for higher ordered thinking to take place.

2. In relationship with the above-mentioned principle, make questioning progressive. Give questions assessing low-level thinking going toward higher level of thinking. You can start giving simple questions then asking more complex ones. Simple questions, aside that they check basic knowledge of the lesson, most of the time enhance student confidence to answer. The complex ones on the other hand give proofs for more in-depth understanding of the lesson. Finally, give questions that would breed new ideas. Give questions that are out-of-the-box and that encourage creativity such as hypothetical questions like “what if” or “if you were…”.

3. Reconstruct your questions if they seem to be too hard to understand for the students. The previous principles state that we should give higher-ordered thinking questions but we must as well remember that it does not need to use high falutin words or complicated sentence construction. Use direct and simple words that are at the level of the students.
     Once I asked my students how a demo teaching was done by a teacher-applicant in our school and they said that the demo teacher was at the brink of crying because there were no students who can answer her questions making her demo teaching blunt and boring. I asked them if her questions were difficult and they said that they couldn’t understand her questions. The teacher-applicant could have elicited responses from her students if she could have paraphrased and have reconstructed her questions. The worse, I just heard a feedback that my students were labeled “slow” because of this.  I just hate it when teachers would easily judge their students to be numskulls just because the latter couldn’t answer questions that were in fact vague or unclear.
     If you sense that there are no reactions from the students when asked a question, it could mean a lot of things. Maybe they didn’t know the answer, or they were not listening or of course, the questions were vague or were not fully understood. Bottom line, simplify your question or ask it the other way around.

4. Address the questions to the whole class first then pick a student to answer. Sometimes, there are teachers who would pick a student then ask a question. If this is the case, the teacher limits the opportunity only for that particular student to think while the whole class just waits and observes. If the teacher would ask the whole class first, it gives the chance for all the students to think.

5. Give ample amount of time for students to answer your questions. Providing enough time avoids guessing and leads to quality answers from the students. Waiting time depends on the kind of questions you ask. If this is a low-level, convergent question, 5 seconds is the most time a teacher can wait. If this is a higher-ordered question, then 5 or more seconds is needed. Give extra time if the question needed revision in order for the students to carry on with their thinking.
     This may also depend on the kind of students a teacher has. Take note to provide more sufficient or perhaps longer time for students who are slow-learners. The teacher may also give hints or ask leading and follow-up questions as students think of their answers.

6. Deliver your questions in such a way that is encouraging and motivating. Some teachers ask questions with a serious and stern look making students feel intimidated and perhaps scared to answer. Inspire students to feel that they are free to express speak their minds.  This way of questioning entices students to participate and results to productive class discussion. Take note however, that proper decorum still must be observe. Acquaint students to raise their hands if they want to answer and make them realize that it is inappropriate to shout their answers or to butt in if one of their classmates is answering the question.

7. Use questions not just to assess students especially those who are only listening. You can utilize questioning to check if students are still “on earth”. Also call on those who don’t raise their hands to give them the chance to speak their minds as well.

     I was trying to include among these principles about how a teacher must react with student answers but I realized that this topic needs another post. So watch out (it’s as if that somebody really is watching out…hehehe) for my post on handling or reacting with student responses. 

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