Happy Monday all!
This week I’m going to be focusing on the use of questioning in the classroom. I believe that effective questioning take a huge amount of time and dedication but, if you can get it right, it is one of the cornerstones for learning.
I’m going to kick off the week with some ideas about how you can reflect on your own practice of questioning in the classroom. I do this all the time and, if I’m completely honest with myself, sometimes the answers are a little uncomfortable. But that’s how we get better, right?
Start with a few questions about your own classroom questioning practice:
- Is your lesson dominated by the questions you ask, rather than your students?
- What types of questions are your students asking? Are they higher level questions or are they asking for clarity on instructions? Or to go to the toilet?
- Do you have the same students who always put their hands up for everything? Do you rely on those students to keep up the pace of your lesson?
When I reflect on the above I know my questioning is sometimes below par. At best, it gives some of my students the chance to be lazy and at worst, actually becomes a barrier to their learning.
Here are a couple of ideas I’ve tried out which have forced me to think carefully about my use of questioning and, hopefully, have helped me to improve as a result.
- Ask a colleague to observe you. Give them a seating plan with the name of every student in the room and two different coloured pens. During the lesson they should mark the student in one colour when you ask the student a question, and another when the student asks a question. This can be made more complicated with types of question etc., but I would suggest the more simple approach is a good starting point. I was hugely surprised when I saw the results of one of my lessons. I had always thought my range of questioning was OK, but even though I was aware someone was monitoring it there were several students who had not asked a single question in an hour. It also helped me to see that I relied heavily on a handful of students. Seeing this can be a real eye opener for you and a great starting point from which to improve your questioning skills.
- Do you give your students two seconds to answer your question then answer it yourself? I used to. When you spell this out it sounds utterly ridiculous, but I think this awful practice is born of good intention. You may feel that a silent classroom is an awkward classroom and your answering is in some way helping the student by consolidating or encouraging. This of course is not the case. It is a barrier for learning. Another good starting point for self-reflection is to complete an audio recording of your lesson. How long are you giving your students to answer questions? A lot of research suggests that we need at least ten seconds to formulate a response to an open question. This may feel like an eternity in a classroom, but it is necessary. An audio recording will help you to hear if you are giving your students a chance to think and learn.
- Think about what kinds of questions your students are asking or, more specifically, you have encouraged and trained them to ask. A good way to collect evidence on this one is to ask students to complete an exit ticket which asks a question about the topic you covered in the lesson. When you get chance have a look at the types of questions your students are asking. Do they all demonstrate the lower level, comprehension type questions? If so, working on the culture of your question and thinking about stretch and challenge though questioning might be something to think about.
The average teacher asks two questions per minute and over 400 per day. Let’s be realistic here, they aren’t all going to produce an optimal learning experience for every student, but if a higher proportion of them do we are heading in the right direction. I hope you find these reflections useful as a starting point for improving your questioning within the classroom.
I’ll be writing about my top ten questioning techniques on Wednesday. I hope you can pop back and that you find them useful!
Have a good week.