Reframing Questions - Sparking Learner Curiosity #2

As I mentioned yesterday, Michelle Lucas has some awesome ideas about Sparking Student Curiosity This blog entry continues my exploration of the ideas she poses in her article above. I found the activities she uses to be worth noting below.  I encourage you to read her short article to gain some additional context.

Below, you'll find my connections to the activities she mentions. Feel free to leave a comment to share your insights.


Activity #2: Reframing Simple Questions

Michelle starts with a simple question, then gets students to reframe them. Before we jump into that, allow me to digress.


About Questioning

Some quick info about questioning (Source):

  • Questioning accounts for up to a third of all teaching time, second only to the time devoted to explanation.
  • Teachers ask up to two questions every minute, up to 400 in a day, around 70,000 a year, or two to three million in the course of a career.
  • Of the four hundred a day, a large proportion of these (anything between 30 and 60 per cent) are procedural.
  • After teaching for around 14-and-a-half years, a teacher is likely to have asked a million questions.
  • Teachers frequently call on volunteers to answer their questions and these volunteers often constitute a select group of students. That is, not all students are accountable to respond to all questions.
  • Teachers typically wait less than one second after asking a question before calling on a student to answer. They wait even less time (often 0 seconds) before speaking after a student has answered.
  • Teachers often accept incorrect answers without probing; as well, they frequently answer their own questions.
  • Students in turn ask teachers very few content-related questions.
Wow, pretty amazing stats! Sounds like we need to learn to ask better questions. Glen Pearsall says the following:
Questioning is the basic building block of assessment. Teachers...They use questioning to gauge prior learning, to check for understanding, to elicit evidence, to monitor individual performance, and to encourage whole-class groups to share their insights and learn from one another. 
Refining your questioning technique, then, can help you improve all levels of your practice. Source: Fast and Effective Questioning
Glen offers several strategies for questioning that are well-worth checking out, such as:

  • Cold Calling
    • Telling Students
    • Speculative Framing
    • Answer Scaffolds
    • Think-Pair-Share
    • Question Relay
  • Selecting Students at Random, say, with popsicle sticks or wheel of names.
  • Inclusive questioning
  • Pre-cueing
  • Many Hands Up
  • Placeholder statements
  • Reflective statements
  • Blank prompts
and a few more. Definitely check his book chapter online out.


Effective Size of Questioning

Questioning has an effective size of .48, and Corwin's Visible Learning Meta X describes it in this way: "A practice by which an instructor or textbook writer poses factual or conceptual questions to students. This educational practice dates to Greek antiquity, if not earlier."

That the practices dates back to Greek antiquity really doesn't provide much clarity...That's why it's cool to look at questioning. I'm reminded of Jamie McKenzie's work (have you heard of him?). He shares this quote in his epistle on questioning:
"Once you have learned how to ask relevant and appropriate questions, you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know."
Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner
I wholeheartedly agree with this. Jamie makes some excellent points, too, way back in October, 1997! And, even further back, he highlights important essential and subsidiary questions in this 1996 piece.
Job in the Bible asks God, "Why are you doing this to me?" God basically answers him by saying, "Are you the one who created the world? Are you the one who can do all the things that I can do? How can you be so arrogant as to think you understand any of this?"
It's one of the most famous questions in the Bible, because of the answer, but also because of the power of the question. A colleague once told me the reason she thinks Job "gets better" and lives a hundred and forty happy and prosperous years after his troubles is because he is allowed to question. 
The reason we all "get better" is the fact that we are able to cry out to God and say, "Why me?" In the end, expressing ourselves through questions can really save us. 
 -RABBI MATTHEW D. GEWIRTZ, Congregation Rodeph Sholom as cited in Dorothy Leeds book, The 7 Powers of Questions
You know, I have to say, my favorite back-n-forth in the Bible is Moses trying to get God to pick someone else. Employer-employee relations. :-)

Creating a Questioning Culture in Your Classroom

One of my other favorite books on question included Dorothy Leeds' The 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and at Work. I regret I parted with my copy of the paperback version. However, I did keep my notes on how to create a questioning culture in your organization. I find that it's relevant to create a questioning culture in your classroom.

Dorothy Leeds suggests these steps:
  1. Model the questioning culture. 
  2. Build questioning in every activity. Allow time in the agenda for questions and encourage people to ask them.
  3. Create multiple platforms for asking and answering questions.
You can see how you can do this in the classroom, right? And how technology can help with step #3?

Ok, back to Michelle's point.

Reframing Simple Questions

Michelle suggests reframing simple questions that start out "What..." to "What if...." This reframes the question in a "transformative question." Her goal is to "address misconceptions and uncover a deeper understanding." This yields even more questions.

 What would you predict would happen in your classroom if you changed the kinds of questions that you ask? (Source)

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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