For some reason my recent reading has taken me to several selections that discuss the art of questioning. Experience reminds me that questioning is often friend or foe, depending on who is asking the challenging question. Even in reading the New Testament, I have again noticed that Jesus’ teaching included adept questioning.
Research shows us that questioning is closely linked to critical thinking. For that reason, teachers should give attention to the questioning techniques implemented into the teaching process. Observation reminds me that many times teachers carefully prepare to teach a lesson but that preparation does not include carefully crafted questions.
So when I happened upon an article in Education Update about questioning, my interest was piqued. Jeanne Muzi, a teacher from New Jersey, began the article by connecting classroom questioning to critical thinking. However, upon closer examination, I noted that she took a completely different tact than I had taken to that point. Her article was entitled Five Ways to Strengthen Student Questioning (emphasis mine).
She offered apt reminders like “all students need to generate purposeful questions” and “a significant instructional shift takes place when a classroom culture is transformed from one where the teacher poses the majority of questions to one where a community of curious wonderers offer up their own.”
Improving Student Questions
What are you doing in your classroom to improve student questioning? Muzi offered five classroom activities that a teacher can use to improve student questioning; I have shared on three below:
Circulate a unique object (photograph, antique, item from nature, etc.) around the classroom. Ask students to develop questions that “uncover more information about” the object, not identify it. After students have put together their list of questions, discuss which questions will be most helpful in learning about the object. Of course, take time to answer the questions.
Using a set of sentence-stem cards developed by the teacher, students draw a stem card and try to generate as many questions as possible about a concept using a single Q-stem. Stems could include starters like: Why…? What is another way to describe…? Are there…? How…? Is it possible that …? After questions are developed, take time to go back and answer the questions before moving on to another stem.
Distribute or project a copy of a photograph (famous illustration, historic setting, current event) and allow students to thoughtfully look at the item. The, ask students to develop a set of questions that might come from any character in the photo. It could be a prominent character but might work better to choose a lesser character. Then ask students to pose their question(s) to the class and provide a rationale for the question.
As teachers, we must continually hone our questioning skills. Why? Because effective questioning cannot be separated from the critical thinking. However, as we seek to improve our questioning skills, let’s not forget to strengthen student questioning skills as well.
Can you share a technique that you use in your classroom to strengthen student questioning?
Muzi, J. (2017, January). Five ways to strengthen student questioning. Education Update, Vol. 59, (1). ASCD: Alexandria, VA.