Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Questioning as Assessment

Why is it important to use questioning strategies to check for understanding? What are some ways to respond to students who respond incorrectly in class?

By questioning students, teachers can discover what the classroom knows, needs to know, and still misunderstands. Every single person has a proficiency to ask and answer questions. Such a dialogue is pivotal to daily life. Even at a young age, we are programmed to ask questions in order to find out everything about the world. Young girls and boys question their parents concerning the nature of things and why the world works in said ways. This is why the questions: “Why is that man running”, “How does that work”, and the famous “Are we there yet”, come as no surprise out of the mouths of children.

However, we as teachers must never limit our questioning process to such rudimentary levels. When students are left to solely experience a two-part process, question-answer, they become bored and restless. No student can appropriately learn within such a framework. Therefore, it is the teacher’s role to create a flowing dialogue. How do we do this? How is a flowing conversation created? First, questions must never be complacent, meaning they should never encourage a student to rely on the same information they previously possessed. Instead, every question should be initiating growth and deeper thinking. The question: “What is the capitol of Washington” promotes no deep reflection. These kinds of questions resist the idea of mental development, focusing more on recognition than anything else. Better questions might be: “How do we remember that the capitol of Washington is Olympia” and “Why is Washington’s capitol Olympia”, offer true reflection to occur. Students will not stand complacent with these kinds of questions; in fact, they will be pushed to recognize the question, interpret the appropriate response, explore other meanings, and be able to reflect on the process.

A second method to create a flowing discussion is called the QUILT Framework. This context focuses on a five-step process to improve questioning strategies. The steps follow a enriching pattern so as to maximize student interaction, improve classroom discussion, and benefit student learning. The stages; “Prepare to Question”, “Present the Question”, “Prompt Student Responses”, “Process Student Response”, and “Reflect on Questioning Process”, develop and effective classroom conversation. Students will no longer rely on complacency, but will hopefully reflect on their thinking-process and better apply what they learn.

A third way to enrich one’s questioning techniques, thereby improving student learning is apply Bloom’s Taxonomy. This process provides students with the opportunity to think and the teacher with an opportunity to check for understanding. The Taxonomy focuses on a gradual development of the difficulty and purpose of each initiated question in class. At first, teachers ask a knowledge-based question, then progress to questions geared towards comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and finally, evaluation. With an evolving, multi-dimensional set of questions such as this, students are encouraged to push themselves beyond their comfort zones until true learning can happen.

A fourth, and final, method to improving questioning strategies in order to generate better classroom dialogue is to institute instructional practices that promote participation. One of the most difficulty aspects to improving classroom discussion is student participation. Therefore, do something about it! Create response cards, hand signals, audience response systems, reciprocal questioning, or even facilitating a Socratic seminar. All of these techniques help to maintain student enthusiasm while participating in classroom interaction, which in turn allows for better learning and application.

All of these methods are focused on creating lively classroom conversation. By keeping students engaged, pushing them out of their academic comfort zones, avoiding complacency, and using questioning strategies for appropriate assessment, teachers can best improve student learning.

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