Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blog Assignment #4

     For this blogpost assignment, Dr. Strange asked us to really think about questions, their role in the classroom, and how we plan to use them to be an effective teacher. After reading Edutopia's post about "The Goal of a Question", it really had me thinking. Ben Johnson brings up an important point that teachers need to "come to grips with the fact that we really do not know everything, and there is no reason to assume that the students know nothing." We need to make students feel involved from the beginning, and show them that we believe in them, and have faith in them to be able to figure out answers to questions on their own (after all, they do have the technology to do that nowadays)! A teacher's role is definitely shifting, and we need to guide our students to become lifelong learners instead of using the same old fashioned teaching routines. This involves asking a lot of questions!
     A lot of teachers use questions as a way to check their students' understanding of the material. After teaching, they will typically ask if anyone has any questions or go over some review questions, and then decide if it's time to move on to the next lesson or not. The problem with this is that it's so easy for students to figure out that if they just say yes, the teacher will move on without ever challenging them or making them think outside of the box! Much less, students may not realize that they don't actually have a good enough understanding of the material yet. Edutopia suggests that we can avoid this by asking specific questions, and probing students to push them further so the teacher can actually distinguish whether or not the students understand the material or not. Asking simple, closed questions definitely won't cut it for this! 
     Another point that really stood out to me is that students can pick up on how they are perceived by both their teachers and their peers, and they will identify with that, which in turn has a major effect on how engaged they might be in the classroom. For example, when a teacher asks a challenging question, the students who believe that they aren't the "smart ones" or who don't feel motivated will automatically check out, and let the "smarter" students take a stab at answering the question. As future educators, we can't allow this! We need to keep all of our students engaged for the longest amount of time possible to the best of our ability, and we need to make sure every student feels involved in the classroom!
     Of course, there will always be problems with students daydreaming, and not participating, but we can use questions to help break this cycle! If we show our students that we believe in them to be able to figure out the answer to any question, it will help them build up confidence in themselves, and students who typically feel like they can just slide by because they are the "trouble makers" or aren't one of the "smart ones" will soon realize that they have potential too! Edutopia had a great tip for keeping students fully engaged during questioning for the whole class time. They suggest asking a question, pausing for a few seconds, and THEN calling out a student's name so that way the students attempt to figure out the answer until they realize who is actually going to be called on. If a teacher just calls on a student in the first place, the rest of the students will relax, breathe a sigh of relief, and check out because they don't have to worry about being called on anymore! Another way to make questioning more effective is to come up with a random system for calling on students. You don't want students to think "one and done", meaning that they check out and stop paying attention after they've answered their one question for the day! 
   The Teaching Center recommends using Bloom's Taxonomy for the perfect combination of asking effective questions. According to their website, this means "combining questions that require lower-order thinking to assess students' knowledge and comprehension with questions that require higher-order thinking to assess students' abilities to apply, anaylze, synthesize, and evaluate". A good way to do this is to ask a combination of closed questions, which have simple, short answers, and open ended questions, which require students to think outside of the box.
Bloom's Taxonomy
     At this point, you might be wondering how to go about implementing these tips for your own classroom! Faculty Focus recommends three tips for using questions in the classroom: 1. Prepare Questions
2. Play With Questions
3. Preserve Questions
     By taking the the time to think about which questions to ask before hand, teachers can be better prepared, and come up with questions that will challenge students and eventually help them to better understand & retain the material. Teachers should also stay open to playing around with the questions. Sometimes we might find that our questions are confusing, or not challenging enough, and we have to be open to change! The last tip is to preserve questions for future use. We can do this by saving questions that really make our students think or encourage discussion, and build off of them. We can also take recommendations from our students! Once a teacher turns their classroom into an environment where questions are constantly being asked, and they aren't so intimidating anymore, students will be more likely to participate and bring their own questions up to the plate! 
     One of the mottoes in EDM 310 is "questions are more important than answers." I definitely agree with this because questions lose their magic after students figure out the correct answer. The part of questioning that is important is the thought process because that is what students are going to remember, and that is what sticks with them! It is our job as teachers to figure out the right types of questions to ask so we can create the right type of learning environment for our students! 


  1. Hey, Savannah! I definitely appreciated your take about how questions from either the student or the teacher affect a classroom. To ask the question, "Okay class, does everyone understand the material?" is not enough when it comes to children. Children need to fully understand something before moving on to the next lesson, or it will be trouble for both the student and the teacher. In order to make sure it does not happen in the future, teachers need to ask more specific questions, like "why did you answer what you answered to that question", or something to that effect. That will engage the student in conversation, and make them look deep within themselves for the answer. I totally agree with all of your statements.

  2. Savannah I really and truly agree with you about the teacher's role. Some students look to their teachers for all the tool in life especially they came from a broken home. I think that comes with the teacher not having a daily goal for himself or herself. When it comes to asking questions and students possibly responding it is usually because it is always a "spokes person" one person in the class that answers the question and so the teacher 'assumes' everyone understands and then moves on. It is a terrible cycle that is still continuing today and it needs to end because it will leave students confused and unprepared for what is next. As teachers we will never know everything because we are not perfect but we too can ask questions and learn every day. I enjoyed your blog and I encourage you to keep up the good work!