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Questioning in the classroom can be scary


David Burke

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Monday, April 17, 2023

Does questioning stimulate thinking leading to students taking responsibility for their own learning?

Although questioning by the teacher can prompt good thinking and responses, it may also be the reason for students not becoming more independent…

Not all students think the same way. Teacher questioning does challenge students, many of who find it hard to find the right words, to explain.

Highly effective questioning

We speak of highly effective questioning being about quality rather than quantity and that asking questions elicit deep thinking and provide useful insights to the teacher about students’ thinking … right?

How about the non-verbal child who just cannot articulate the answer, or the child whose language skills are very weak…. what happens to their confidence?

Should we be speaking about highly personalised questioning with a dash of empathy?

If the aim is to promote and thinking – is deep questioning always effective?

Questioning as an assessment tool

Questioning could be used as an assessment tool to elicit student thinking, about knowledge and to provide the teacher evidence on whether the students have grasped how to apply the acquired knowledge, providing them an opportunity to clarify ambiguity or indeed providing challenge for further research.

Great teachers elicit information from responses from of all students using tempered and meaningful questions that are specifically targeted at the student, empathetically.

There is no doubt that questioning as a tool can promote deep, connected and elaborated thinking. Questions can prompt students to give explanations and justifications for their answers, or to improve an initial response, to describe their thinking processes, to elaborate on their answers, to exploring implications, ‘what-if’s and connections with other ideas and knowledge.

This is true assessment by outcome.

This is also an opportunity – or the first step – which really motivates students to engage in further independent learning and enquiry.

Oracy and dialogue

Although we have used the word ‘questioning’ there are a range of activities that teachers can use to promote oracy and dialogue inspiring the learner to generate explanations and it is this inspiration that really facilitates deep learning because this encourages the learner to connect new knowledge to existing personal knowledge and work independently.

Asking meaningful and appropriate questions that target essential learning is a start point, and should be followed by inspiring subsequent actions leading to students producing evidence of learning. It’s this motivated independence that follows that makes questioning a useful tool and distinguishes it from a test or exam approach to learning.

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