A study was once conducted to find out how teachers ask questions. This was observed in a Grade 6 Science class. A tape recorder was hidden under the demonstration table. She conducted a discussion of the lesson for forty minutes. She was able to ask 29 questions, all of which are of the “what” type. Maybe they were all answered. They were simple recall. But has the teacher helped develop the pupils’ thinking skills?
The kind of questions we ask determine the level of thinking we develop. Low-level questions demand low-level responses. They require responses of the simple recall or memory type Examples: What was the temperature range yesterday? What insect transmits dengue fever? What part of a plant serves as its factory?
High-level questions call for higher-order thinking ability. “Why” and “how” questions require analysis of observations. The conclusion is arrived at after weighing evidence or establishing a pattern out of a recorded tabulation of data. Examples: Why does temperature continue to rise from early morning till about noontime? How does the hydyrologic cycle occur? A question is taken as a request for information. It is simply an inquiry about something. In teaching, it takes the form of a problem at the start of an investigation or a query about a current issue such as time or classroom management. It is a statement that demands an explanation, a purpose or an argument. A daily lesson is seldom without even a single question. It is the question, stated in any form that unlocks thinking. Hence, it is integral in the teaching practice.
Types of Questions according to Purpose
The kind of questions we ask varies according to purpose. Here are some:
For Assessing Cognition
This type of question is used to determine one’s knowledge in understanding. They promote high-level thinking. Divergent questions and open-ended inquiries call for analysis and evaluation. Example: What is likely to happen if the ozone layer of the atmosphere continues to deteriorate? Why is sound heard louder when underwater than out of it?
It determines the exactness or accuracy of the results of an activity or performance. Example: Was the weight of liquid displaced exactly the same as the weight of the object immersed in it Why.is lightning seen before thunder is heard?
For Creative Thinking
It probes into one’s originality. Example: How will you present the layers of the earth to your class? Simulate the eruption of Mt. Mayon. The question may ask for pupils’ own ideas or new ways of doing things. Example: How can you demonstrate soil-less gardening?
It elicits responses that include judgments, value and choice. It also asks personal opinions about an event, a policy or a person. Example: Was your teacher’s slide presentation well done?
For Productive Thinking
It includes cognitive reasoning. It analyses facts, recognizes patterns or trends and invokes memory and recall. Example: Why was our fourth Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. successful with the small landowners? Flow can we apply the Law of Conservation of Energy?
Before discussing the lesson, a number of questions about the topic can serve to arouse their interest and focus attention. It attempts to put students in the right mood. Example: Would you like to know how your favorite flower can remain fresh longer? Did you ever train a pet?
The question asks for useful information. It directs, guides and advise on what and how to do an activity. Example: What are the steps in performing an experiment?
Types of Questions according to Level / Answer
As to level, questions can either below or high level.
They include memory questions or those that require simple recall. Examples: Define- energy. State the first law of motion.
These questions call for a respondent’s ability to analyze, evaluate and solve problems. Examples: What is the relationship between the distance of a planet and its period of revolution? Why does the temperature rise towards noontime?
They are questions that require a single predictable answer. Examples are those that call for: 1) defining, 2.) stating, 3.) interpreting, and 4.) summarizing. Examples: When does lunar eclipse occur?
They require, the respondents to think in “different directions”, to think of alternative actions or to arrive at own decision. There are several possible answers. Example: Why are you voting for him? What will happen if you leave it under direct sunlight for a week?
Class interaction is dependent on your questioning skills. What skills should you acquire to generate interaction among your students? They are:
- Varying type of question — Ask convergent, divergent, and evaluative questions. Convergent questions have only one acceptable correct answer. An example is “What is the process of food manufacture that takes place in plants called?” Divergent questions are open and may have more than one acceptable answer. Example: “How can the government most effectively enforce laws against water pollution?” An evaluative question requires judgment concerning the subject of focus. Example: What is your evaluation of our manner of the election in the country?
- Asking non-directed questions — Pose the question first, then call on a student to answer. Don’t direct your question to just one student. Direct the question to all.
- Calling on non-volunteers — Don’t just call on those who raise their hands.
- Rephrasing — If you sense a question was not understood, simplify it or ask it in another way.
- Sequencing logically— It is asking related questions one from simple to complex one after another.
- Requiring abstract thinking — This means going beyond simple recall questions. Examples of questions that require abstract thinking is “What meaning can you derive from the data presented in the graph? What generalization can you draw from the data presented?”
- Asking open-ended questions — This means asking divergent questions to develop higher-order thinking skills.
- Allowing for sufficient wait time — Wait time refers to the pause needed by the teacher after asking a question. This is the time when she waits for an answer. A number of things to consider are: a.) the level of difficulty of the question, b.) the type of response required, c.) the background knowledge of the respondents and d.) the intellectual ability of the respondents.
An average of 2 to 5 seconds is sufficient for “what” questions and about 5 to 10 seconds for “why” and “how” questions.
Usually, there is a need to revise or improve the question if it proves difficult at the moment. This is a second wait time. A longer pause would encourage the second wait time. A longer pause would encourage the students to continue thinking. In most cases they are able to think of the best answer, The follow-up questions can lead to extended ideas instead of short memory questions.
Providing sufficient wait time can achieve the following:
- Motivates slow thinking students to respond
- Improves the quality of the responses made
- Decreases the amount of guessing or wrong inferences
- Increases the number of correct responses
- Leads the teacher to vary her questions
- Provides time for the teachers to evaluate the answers given.
- Encourages the students to ask their own questions. Give students enough time to think about the answers.
- Assessing comprehension — Ask questions to test comprehension. Now and then find out if your students are with you.
- Involving as many as possible — Distribute your questions to as many students. Widen participation. Don’t just call on students on students who raise their hands. By their facial expression, you can sense who among your students would like, to recite.
How to Improve Questioning Technique
The following are some points to consider to improve one’s questioning technique.
- Know your own style of questioning
- Request a colleague to critique your own style as to: a.) kind of questions often asked, b.) amount of wait-time provided and c.) the type of responses required. Knowing your errors in questioning would make it easy to effect the necessary changes. Too many “what” questions will be avoided.
- Increase your own repertoire of type of questions. Training in employing divergent, high level, and open-ended questions im-proves your questioning technique. Fully aware of the instructional objectives set for a particular lesson, you would be able to frame more interesting and thought-provoking questions rather than the memory type.
- Consider the individual abilities and interests of the students. Experiencing success in giving correct answers promotes a feeling of confidence among them. Select the brighter ones to respond to high-level questions. An approving nod, a smile or a praise for an answer given will encourage them to volunteer own ideas.
- Spend time reflecting on the type of questions you ask. Im-prove on them.
How To Encourage Questions from Students
Children are by nature curious. They ask questions about almost anything they see and hear around them. They ask casual, intelligent and even funny questions. Neil Postman said, “They come to school as question marks”. but unfortunately “leave school as periods”.
The teacher’s reaction to their inquisitiveness can motivate or discourage them from asking more questions. Some may give honest answers, others may instantly stop them from attempting. to-ask More. How can we encourage children to ask•questions? Here are some tips.
- The teacher’s questioning technique is the key in encouraging students to ask correct, relevant, and high-level questions. Her questions can serve as good examples.
- Attend to their questions. Avoid dismissing irrelevant questions. Assist in clarifying or refocusing in order to solicit correct responses.
- Praise the correctly formulated questions. It develops confidence and makes knowledge search easy and satisfying.
- Allot an appropriate time slot for open questioning. This will encourage slow thinkers to participate freely.
Handling Pupils’ Response
Sometimes we, teachers, take our reaction to our student’s response for granted. We forget how crucial this part. of teaching is by the way we handle our students’ responses, we either encourage or discourage them from actively participating in class interaction. The following techniques can help:
- Providing feedback on the correctness or incorrectness of a response. In providing corrective feedback:
- Remember that the reaction “That’s wrong” can put off or embarrass a learner. Be more tactful.
- Give a hint or break down the question if necessary, to guide the learner to the correct response.
- Explain the correct answer when the learners cannot arrive at it.
- Initially ask easy questions to enhance the student’s (particularly a slow one’s)-self-confidence and to encourage active participation from everyone.
- Giving appropriate praise to high-quality responses In giVing appropriate praise:
- Match praise to the level of difficulty of the question answered or to the quality of the response given.
- Vary acceptance reactions. As someone said, there are 99 ways of saying “okay”.
- Remember that a slow/insecure learner needs more praise than a fast/confident one. Be discreet, lest the faster ones think that praise is only for the slow learners.
- Making follow-up questions In mating follow-up questions:
- Remember that follow-up questions should logically relate to the preceding questions and/or the learners’ responses.
- Follow-up ‘questions should be characteristically develop-mental and directed towards a better/deeper understanding of the topic being discussed.
- Clearly-stated, short follow-up questions elicit better responses from the students.
- Redirecting questions
- Certain questions deserve to be answered by more than one learner. Take advantage of this opportunity to promote creative or divergent thinking.
- Some students need a reformulation of the question for better understanding. Be sensitive and accommodating to such need.
- Following up a student’s response with related questions In explaining the question/answer:
- Slowly repeating or replacing certain words in a question may be the way to enable a student to give the correct answer.
- On the other hand, other students may need to understand better an accepted (learner’s) response to a question. The students can feel the teacher’s interest in them when their needs communicated directly or through non-verbal behavior are accommodated.
- Re-phrasing the seemingly unclear question
- Rephrase unclear questions by using terms or idioms familiar to the student.
- Avoid long and complicated sentence structures in asking questions.
- Showing non-verbal encouragement In shOwing nonverbal encouragement:
- Cultivate the habit of conveying positive meanings through your body language. Body language, particularly a teacher’s facial expression, during recitation communicates a message of encouragement or otherwise to students.
- Eye-to-eye contact, a smiling face, and an encouraging hand gesture remove fear of embarrassment from the students.
- Encouraging learners to ask questions
- Watch out for students who seem to have problems. (via nonverbal indicators). about certain responses. Encourage them to bring out their questions.
- Create a communication climate that encourages pupils to provide additional information or give comments that can add to understanding.