Questioning is the best method to check a student's progress in a class. When teachers ask questions to students, it should be aimed at understanding a student’s knowledge about a certain topic. It should be free from expectations and preconceived notions so that the answer is like honest feedback on how much the student has learned or absorbed and whether any changes are required in your teaching methods for it to be more effective. Assessments and quizzes can also check the progress of a student, but organic questioning in the classroom is quite indispensable. This article will discuss the purpose of questioning in the classroom and how you can use questions to bring out vital indicators of a student’s progress.
Purpose of the Questioning Method
The primary role of questioning is to check a student's understanding of the concepts taught in class. This is done to see if there are any loopholes in their understanding or any misunderstandings that might be cleared. The second type of questioning is to engage students to widen their horizons and lead them onto exploring the topic or concept on a deeper level. Questions act as prompts to open a dialogue for students to engage in. They can be asked once students understand the concept. Other general questions are necessary too. Questions like ‘Are you in a mood to study?’ or ‘Do you need a break?’ can help students feel seen and understood on an interpersonal level. Basically, questions enable teacher-student connection, whether that be on an intellectual plane or a humanistic plane. Questions ease the flow of two-way learning.
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Here are some types of questions which can help you create a comfortable learning environment where questions are not met with nervousness but with independent opinion and thought:
- Factual Questions - Teachers do this kind of questioning to check whether the students can pay attention to the topic or if it is too difficult for them to understand. Surficial questions like this can indicate to the teacher how effective his/her teaching methods are.
- Conceptual Questions - Teachers ask these questions to see whether the student has understood a concept fully or not. This process opens the space for opinion-based dialogues and subjective answers. It reveals any gaps or loopholes that students have in the core concept of a subject. These questions are more reflective than evaluative because the student is yet to understand the topic completely.
- Pivotal Questions - These questions are direction changers. When the flow of a class is in a certain direction and a pivotal question is asked, the class starts following a different direction altogether. For instance, in a physical geography class, you are teaching about cyclones, but the students are unaware of adiabatic heating. The question asking them about adiabatic cooling will redirect the class from cyclones to a different concept, i.e., adiabatic cooling.
- Socratic Questions - They are thought-provoking questions that create a brainstorming environment in the class. They are different from conceptual questions because conceptual questions are about a concept explained in the class, but Socratic questions are asked before a topic is initiated. Socratic questioning creates a conducive space for students to think freely about a topic and ask further questions without knowing anything about it.
- Thunks - This type of questioning uses apparently simple questions to nudge the student into a state of deep thought. Thunk questions are great thought prompts. They compel the person answering to think about the answer truly before they can respond. These questions are often called trick questions by students due to their deceptive nature. Even though they have a bad reputation among students, thunk questioning is very beneficial for the student as it develops his critical thinking. For instance, “How much land does a man need?”
- Pre-Lesson Questioning - This commonly used and very effective method of questioning involves asking the classroom about a topic so that they can start a discussion about the upcoming lesson. It helps pique the students’ interest, and they look forward to getting answers to these questions by studying the next lesson. For instance, in biology, if the next lesson is about respiration, you can ask students simple questions like “Why do we need to breathe and how does our body do it?”
- Reverse Questioning - This technique uses reverse questions and answers to get the classroom’s attention. The answer is given to the classroom and they are asked about what the question can be. For example, “If the answer is chlorophyll, what can be the question?” Such questioning is often fun to solve and can make the students think out of the box for answers.
- Chained questions - A chained question is when you ask one student a question and when he responds, you throw that response to another student posed as a question. This creates a chain of questions and answers. This is a form of spontaneous questioning that works like rapid-fire quizzes. It helps check how much the student has actually absorbed from a lesson as it doesn’t give the student much time to think.
Classroom questioning is a skill that evolves with training and experience. It requires the teacher to balance hard questions with softer ones to ensure it doesn't damage the students’ confidence. Moreover, it is difficult to hold a classroom's attention for long enough for them to answer questions successfully. Teachers must create, innovate, and evolve their questioning methods to ensure maximum benefit to the student. There are many online and offline courses available that focus on the skill of classroom questioning and quizzes. It is better to be ahead of the game with a higher understanding of classroom questioning methods.