The use of Questions to challenge students:
‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. The important thing is not to stop questioning.’
So why do we use questions?
We use questions in lessons without really thinking about it, they are just part of what we do. But, when we think through the rationale for using them these are the “key factors”
· To capture interest.
· To get the students to engage with the lesson content
· To challenge students understanding
· To check on students prior knowledge
· To focus students thinking on key concepts and issues
· To get students to interact with the material
· To check students’ progress
· For assessment
If we know these “Key factors” it will help us to question more effectively for the outcome we are seeking.
What are the questioning pitfalls:
We can all ask questions, but if we are not careful we can use them in such a way that we close down the learning and make a lesson seem very bitty. Here are just a few of these pitfalls.
· Asking too many closed questions
· Yes or no questions
· Short answer recall-based questions
· Repetitive questioning
· Inappropriate level questioning (see Blooms taxonomy below)
· Poorly phrased ambiguous questions
The use of good questioning can take a lesson from satisfactory to good and good to outstanding. Considering that the lesson being “student centred” and focusing on “independent learning” are factors in the outstanding brief it becomes clear how important good questions are.
You can find some alternatives to using questions on the document that can be downloaded here
How does this link with being a reflective practitioner:
We all know that we reflect on our lessons and how they went, but do we ever focus solely on the questioning that we have used? And whether we used it effectively… Here are just a few ideas on reflecting on use of questions.
· Allow students time – students need thinking time to formulate answers, try the “I will be asking someone for the answer in…” method
· Use challenging language – appropriate to age and ability
· Value students’ responses – praise, praise and more praise… find the correct part of the answer, you don’t want to knock their confidence.
Bloom's Taxonomy was created by Benjamin Bloom during the 1950s and is a way to categorise the levels of reasoning skills required in classroom situations. There are six levels in the taxonomy, each requiring a higher level of thought from the students. As a teacher, you should try to move students up the taxonomy as they progress in their knowledge. To create thinkers as opposed to students who simply recall information, we must incorporate the higher levels into lesson plans and tests.
Knowledge: In the knowledge level of Bloom's Taxonomy, questions are asked solely to test whether a student has gained specific information from the lesson.
· Knowledge – describe, identify, who, when, where
Comprehension: The comprehension level of Bloom's Taxonomy has students go past simply recalling facts and instead has them understanding the information. With this level, they will be able to interpret the facts.
· Comprehension – translate, predict, why
Application: Application questions are those where students have to actually apply, or use, the knowledge they have learned. They might be asked to solve a problem with the information they have gained in class being necessary to create a viable solution.
· Application – demonstrate how, solve, try it in a new context
Analysis: In the analysis level, students will be required to go beyond knowledge and application and actually see patterns that they can use to analyse a problem.
· Analysis – explain, infer, analysis
Synthesis: With synthesis, students are required to use the given facts to create new theories or make predictions. They might have to pull in knowledge from multiple subjects and synthesize this information before coming to a conclusion.
· Synthesis – design, create, compose
Evaluation: The top level of Bloom's Taxonomy is evaluation. Here students are expected to assess information and come to a conclusion such as its value or the bias behind it.
· Evaluation – assess, compare/contrast, judge
You can find Key words for questioning at Bloom’s six taxonomic levels in the document downloadable here
And remember…. “Teaching is the art of asking questions”