Did you know that researchers have found out that teachers can ask up to 400 questions a day? Unfortunately, asking 400 questions will not result in 400 answers. In fact, most teachers will be lucky to get even 50 answers. As such, many teachers don’t even ask questions; they impart their knowledge and leave the classroom.
Questioning is one of the most important skills in effective teaching. Asking questions can help change your classroom dynamics and the futures of your students.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
At this moment, I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Ok Margaret, how should we ask questions?” I’m glad you asked! Here is a closer look at why asking questions is important and some tips on how to ask them.
Ask for an Answer, not a Reply
I know that you have probably asked a question and received an incorrect answer, or no real answer at times. There is a good chance that you asked the wrong question. One of the biggest reasons why many teachers don’t get an answer is because they asked for a reply.
Asking a student “what’s the capital of Texas” and “do you know what the capital of Texas is” are 2 different things. One results in “yes” and the other ‘Austin.” When they answer correctly, they will feel good about themselves and receive a huge confidence boost. As such, ask a question that will get you an answer, not a reply.
Always have a Purpose
It’s unfortunate that some teachers ask questions because “they have to.” If you’re going to a restaurant, it’s because you intend eating there. Then, why should a question be different? If you’re going to ask a question, ensure that you have a purpose.
“I don’t know” is OK!
Ever felt frustrated when you ask many students the same question and nobody knows the answer? I’ve been there. Sometimes they genuinely may not know the answer to your question or they may be too embarrassed to answer in case they get it wrong! Either way, accept “I don’t know” as an answer. Admitting that they don’t know something, often facilitates learning.
The fact is that you want to stimulate your students and help them develop critical thinking. You want them to ask you questions at times and not always the other way around. Students fear being ridiculed by you or classmates if they “don’t know.” By accepting all the “I don’t know” answers you receive and telling them not to worry their fears may well disappear and they will listen to the answer from you. This opens their minds and encourages them to ask you when they don’t understand. Let’s face it, it’s better than “I’ll ask my friend later,” don’t you think?
Don’t Interrupt a Student’s Answer
It may have taken a student a long time to process their answer to your question. They may be nervous about verbalizing an answer in case it is incorrect. Give them the time they need – allow think-time so that the student can consider the question and formulate a response. Don’t hurry them along or interrupt their train of thought – show patience. Remember -questions challenge students’ thinking, and lead them to insights and discoveries of their own!