The Right Question

Questions create the challenges that make us learn.

Teachers spend much of their time asking questions. We need to ensure that we are asking the right kind that spark learning. Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE) questioning, the ‘guess what’s in the teacher’s head’ style, should be avoided whenever possible. We need to provide questions that do more than simply require students to recite what’s been learned. Questions that make students really think and not just report someone else’s thinking. Good questions will create deeper understanding and advance cognitive development. They can’t be answered quickly and easily. They encourage learners to make links with prior knowledge and push them to the limit of their understanding. A strong question should lead to more questions. It should evoke reflection. When inquiring, it’s important to make it clear to students what type of thinking they are expected to do. This clarity will assist with our assessment of their learning.

Let’s take the time to ask the right questions.

As a famous man once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.”

The following three question types provide a framework for prompting students:

Clarify
-What did you mean by…?
-Can you explain that differently?
-What other words could you use?

Probe
-Can you tell me more about…?
-What else do you know about…?
-How else might you use that?

Recommend
-What is better about?
-Can you explain why you prefer that?
-What do you agree with…?

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