Effective Questioning Technique

During one of my observational classes I observed the classroom teacher leading a discussion with the students on the particular topic that the lesson was based on. The discussion came to a point where the classroom teacher started asking the students questions about the topic and I noticed that one particular student kept on raising her hand to provide a response. The teacher proceeded to ask this particular student the answer to the questions and initially it started out as not being obvious that this student was hogging the ‘air-time’. However, it was interesting to see how the discussion/questioning proceeded because it began to feel awkward that no one else was contributing to the question/answers. I certainly noticed this and so too did the classroom teacher (and I’m also sure that the students felt the awkwardness as well). So to combat this, the classroom teacher changed his tactics in terms of gathering responses from students. Instead of continually asking this one particular student for her response, the teacher proceeded to directly ask different students questions relating to the topic of discussion. This quickly changed the feel within the class and it helped engage the other students.

Following the class I asked the teacher about this student and the situation regarding the ‘hogging’ of air-time. He said it is quite common for this one student to be eager in putting forward her responses when the class is having a discussion/question session. I enquired further about the other students and asked whether they had the knowledge to answer these types of questions and he went on to explain that the other students did have the answers to the questions but the one student who is eager to respond intimidates everyone else. So to combat this, he said that he will direct questions to particular students rather than asking for responses from the floor. In Developing Instructional Skills (date and author unknown), the author suggests that this is a good method of bringing particular students into a lesson and to keep them alert. Another tactic that the teacher uses is to change the level of questioning when directly asking certain students. For example, he would use a lower-order question to engage students; not because they are less able or due to the fact that they do not have the knowledge, but rather, because he wants a response from a different student and by putting forward a lower-order question, he is more likely to get a response as the student will feel comfortable. We proceeded to have a discussion around Bloom’s Taxonomy theory and how this relates to eliciting responses from students (see attached document for suggested questioning and how they can link with ICT resources).

The following video clip (from behaviour management guru John Bayley) called Praise & Preparation shows a similar scenario where a primary school student is keen to answer all the science questions. The teacher in this example acknowledges the students’ willingness to respond by openly says that she is going to choose someone else. But so that she doesn’t discourage this student, she exaggerates the thanks and praise toward this student for being keen to respond. This seems to be a good tactic as the teacher doesn’t discourage the keen student but clearly indicates to other students that she is looking for them to contribute to the classroom discussion.

 

The strategy employed by the classroom teacher showed to me that he had: 1) an excellent understanding of how his students learn (National Professional Standards for Teaching: standard 1.2.3.); 2) he was implementing effective teaching strategies to combat the question/answering issues (NPST: standard 3.3.2.); and 3) he was managing classroom activities effectively so that he could maintain a supportive learning environment for students (NPST: standard 4.2.2.).

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