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  • Section 2: Effective Questioning

    Good questioning skills may be the world’s most unsung talent. Ask the right questions in the right way, and you will engage people; do it differently, and you will put them off.

    For any inquiry based learning program there is no more important talent than understanding the art of the questioning. By asking the correct question you will not only get children more actively involved, but it will help them learn this important skill.

    Why do children ask questions?

     Children ask questions because they are pondering new phenomena, and seeking to create meaning from their experience.

    1. Foster’s their natural curiosity
    2. Guides them in making observations towards scientific literacy
    3. Opens the mind and imagination

    What are the purposes for asking questions?

    In a constructivist classroom, teachers pose questions to assess children’s understanding, and points of view.

    Reasons to ask:

    1. To engage and motivate 
    2. To provide direction, focus, clarify & guide 
    3. To assess prior knowledge and misconceptions, progress 
    4. To process information or defend a position 
    5. To prepare, reflect and review 
    6. To uncover students’ naïve conceptions 
    7. To stimulate and challenge higher-level thinking skills 
    8. To focus, clarify, or guide a discussion 
    9. To prompt a student to a particular answer 
    10. To keep the students on task 
    11. To pose problems and guide problem solving 
    12. To seek solutions to problems 
    13. To reflect on and review material of a lesson 
    14. To prepare for an upcoming quip or test


    Sorting Student Questions 


    What questions should teachers avoid asking?

    1. Closed ended questions, these are questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” 
    2. “Why” questions, because you cannot investigate them. The student needs to consult a teacher, outside resource, or even an “expert to answer these questions.

    What four types of questions are necessary for a successful inquiry classroom?

    1. Clarifying questions: requires a student to make their thoughts and understandings more explicit
      – “What do you mean by that?”
    2. Focusing questions: requires a student to narrow their answers and provide more specific responses
      – “Can you give me an example of that?” 
    3. Probing Questions: require a student to justify a response, support a point of view, or analyze a situation
      - What do you think will happen?” 
    4. Prompting Questions: require students to provide answers that are guided by questions asked by the teacher
      - “Don’t you think you should try it again?”


    What are the two (2) types of student questions?

    1. Information seeking questions: “Why” questions are information seeking questions which require a scientific explanation (via teacher or research)
      • Do not (can not) investigate/test for these questions 
      • Can cause teachers to feel uncomfortable teaching science because they are expected to answer these questions 
      • Example: Why do the thin parts of an ice cube melt faster than the thicker parts?

    2. Investigation-performing questions: “Does”, “How can”, “What if”, “I wonder” questions are investigation questions 
      • Can test via experimentation 
      • Example: How does the mass or shape of an ice cube affect the rate of melting?


    What are the different types of teacher questions?

    What are the different types of teacher questioning techniques?

    1. Clarifying- student is asked to restate his or her understanding, elaborate, or articulate a particular position 
    2. Open ended - require more than one word response usually begin with Why or How 
    3. Wait time – wait three to five seconds after a students’ response. Five seconds or longer will increase the students’ response. The student use higher levels of logical and speculative thinking. 
    4. Provide praise and positive reinforcement to the students’ responses, and follow up with additional probing and engaging questions 
    5. Prompts and rephrasing techniques when students cannot answer questions. This is like a life preserver which helps the student to make sense of their understanding. 
    6. Redirectioning - the teacher calls on one student and asks another student to build on the comments. This encourages students to become better listeners.

    Teacher-to-Student Interaction in Questioning


    Teacher to Student Interaction in Questioning 

    This pattern shows the direction of communication from teacher to student and back to the teacher again. This type of questioning limits the interaction to just two participants.


    Redirecting Interaction in Questioning


    Redirection Interaction in Questioning 

    The students must not only listen to their peers, but also analyze and react to previous comments. The teacher is not the conduit in redirecting.


    What are some effective questioning techniques?

    1. Avoid “chorus” questions, be specific with who you call upon 
    2. Think about when to use a student’s name when posing a question (before or after); need both 
    3. Apportion questions equally and equitably by gender: general trend in a science classroom is to ask a male

    “In a classroom atmosphere conducive to good questions and questioning, students realize a shared responsibility for their learning.”
    -Francis Hunkins