Want Questions from Students? Give Permission for and Model Question Asking

22 Aug

A tip stemming from this comment by Dr. Lynn Clark
University of Liverpool, Researcher & Independent Skills Development Consultant

“I believe it’s important to explicitly give permission to students at the start of class to ask questions as and when the questions occur to them.”

Maybe you’ve wondered if some students are too shy to ask questions. Or find that the same students ask questions.  Or notice that students rarely ask questions that come from wondering about ideas – rather they ask questions about information only.  So, therefore, how to  invite participation from more students and model question asking in your interactions with students to help them learn – and to learn about shaping and asking questions.

And one ever present tip: start small – consider the change you most want to make, then review the resources to see what will help you out.  And, as always – use the blog comment area to share your ideas and questions.

For this blog post, we’ve swapped out the two ideas offered in the listserv’s short version Teaching Tip for the listing below of additional resources below, including some for prompting student questions in soliciting and responding to feedback.

By Prompting Students to Respond to Different Types of Questions in Class

  • Seed your lectures with participatory questions and question-asking opportunities: 20 Ways to Make Lectures More Participatory is a good starting place – especially items 1, 2, 4, 7, 17 & 19.  And, there’s modeling the inviting of question asking with item 6 in the list.
  • For a quick study on different types of questions see Some Different Types of Questions.
  • Dig into Rich Felder’s “Any Questions” essay for ideas.  As he notes – and then exemplifies: Questions lie at the heart of the learning process. A good question raised during class or on a homework assignment can provoke curiosity, stimulate thought, illustrate the true meaning of lecture material, and trigger a discussion or some other form of student activity that leads to new or deeper understanding.

By Prompting Students to Ask Questions while Reading

  • Follow Peter Suber’s advice and have students prepare / send at least one question on meaning and one on merit – for assigned readings; ideally, do this from the first week and, always, make use of their questions in the learning and teaching you plan.

By Prompting Students to Ask Questions in Seeking Feedback

  • Whether the reviewers are peers or teachers, require drafters of written materials (papers, posters, web documents, reports) to submit a ½ page memo setting out what they see as (1) working well in the document, (2) still in development, and (3) needing specific feedback in response to two questions the student then lists.

By Prompting Students to Ask Questions in Reviewing Feedback

  • Phrase your in-text annotations (margins of printed texts, with comment field for electronic documents) as questions to the student – use the questions to provoke “next” or “necessary” thinking for a next draft or project; can be posed for further thinking or as directive regarding expectations for next iteration of project.
  • Require students to respond to the feedback (given by you and/or by peers) by answering one question about the responses (such as: “What part of the feedback puzzled/helped you most?” or “If you could ask one more advice/feedback question about your paper, what would that one question be?”

Two Scholarship of Teaching and Learning articles on this topic (linked for access to UMinn instructors logged in on campus)

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One Response to “Want Questions from Students? Give Permission for and Model Question Asking”

  1. UMinnTeachLearn 29 August 2011 at 9:49 am #

    This just posted to The Active Class – by Sidneyeve Matrix, a UMinn PhD alum now Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in the Media and Film Department at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario Canada:

    “Is There a Question in There?” explores why/how questions matter, suggests ways of modeling and inviting question asking via clickers, polls, ChimeIn to structure lectures. The post offers sources for follow up.

    http://theactiveclass.com/2011/08/24/asking-questions/

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