This past Friday I attended a workshop with the educational consultant, Diane Cunningham. I have attended a few of her workshops and classes over the past few years and always walk away with valuable information. This session was on supporting student questioning. We explored four different questioning strategies.
Questioning is important in the classroom because we want students to ask questions and have their questions drive learning because questioning is a key skill of critical thinkers and promotes ownership and engagement.
When I am teaching both middle school and on a college level I might share a video for students to view and discuss. I have students create a chart in their ELA Notebooks or give them an organizer that requires them to jot down what they see, what they think, what they wonder. This strategy is great to use with images, videos, and even primary sources or text.
This thinking routine is from Project Zero (Harvard Education) and encourages students to make careful observation, stimulate curiosity, and set the stage for learning or inquiry.
Another questioning strategy that I use often is QFT from The Right Question Institute. The QFT process requires students to produce as many questions as possible in a specific amount of time about a quote, image, statement or problem. Back in 2018 I wrote a blog post about the QFT method titled, “THE ONE WHO FORMULATES THE QUESTIONS OWNS THE LEARNING.” The cofounder of the Right Question Institute, Dan Rothstein argues, “The rigorous process of learning to develop and ask questions offers students the invaluable opportunity to become independent thinkers and self-directed learners.”
Rothstein and Santana have their own Question Formulation Technique (QFT) – four rules for producing questions:
- Ask as many questions as you can.
- Do not stop to judge, discuss, edit, or answer any question.
- Write down every question exactly as it was asked.
- Change any statements into questions.
Not only is this a great strategy for students to showcase their wonderings, but it can lead to a discussion about Convergent Questions and Divergent Questions. Convergent questions focus on a correct response whereas divergent questions allow for more than one plausible and reasonable answers.
Questions have been the subject of hundreds of studies, as this Edutopia article refers to Kathleen Cotton’s research. Here are some of her most insightful takeaways in this short quiz:
- Which is more effective for fostering learning?
A) Oral questions posed during classroom recitation
B) Written questions
- Posing questions before a reading should be done with students who are:
A) Older/better readers
B) Younger/struggling readers
- Increasing the use of higher-order questions to _____ percent improves student-to-student interactions, speculative thinking, length of student responses, and relevant questions posed by learners.
- Should wait time differ when asking lower- vs. higher-order questions?
|ANSWERS Answer 1: A, oral questions Answer 2: A, because young/struggling readers often read only the parts of the text that help them answer the questions. Answer 3: 50 percent. Answer 4: Yes. Wait time should be about three seconds for lower-order questions, and longer for higher-order questions.|
When students are working in book clubs or literature circles I aways assign a different discussion director for each meeting. The role of the discussion director is to create questions around the big ideas or themes in the reading to help initiate a lively discussion about the text. Again, students are in charge of creating their own questions and sharing their thoughts, ideas, insights, and wonderings.
The one questioning strategy that was new to me was the question matrix designed by Andy Milne. Students are provided with the question matrix and an image, text, video, even an infographic and have to brainstorm the different questions using the stems on the question matrix. Diane had a poster size of the question matrix on the wall for students to add sticky notes with the question stems based on images viewed.
Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation states, “Questions stimulate discussion and creative and critical thinking, as well as determine how students are thinking. Questions help students retain material by putting into words otherwise unarticulated thoughts.”
- Questions can diagnose student understanding of material.
- Questions are a way of engaging with students to keep their attention and to reinforce their participation.
- Questions can review, restate, emphasize, and/or summarize what is important.
- Questions stimulate discussion and creative and critical thinking, as well as determine how students are thinking.
- Questions help students retain material by putting into words otherwise unarticulated thoughts.