Topics: Question, Education, Thought Pages: 29 (7475 words) Published: October 11, 2013
Chapter 1:

How Can Quality Questioning
Transform Classrooms?
Questioning to Advance Thinking,
Learning, and Achievement
Focus Questions
How can effective questioning help transform a traditional, teacher-centered classroom into a student-centered, inquiry-oriented community of learners? What are the connections between quality questions and student learning and achievement?

Why are there gaps between what we know about effective questioning and what we do in classrooms?

Questioning. Thinking. Understanding. These three processes interact in a dynamic fashion to advance student learning, performance, and achievement. Think of these classroom processes as action verbs that create the energy for student work, the fuel for learning. Can you picture the vitality of the teacher and students in a community of learners committed to questioning, thinking, and active understanding? Consider the following vignette, which embodies one vision for such a classroom. As you read this classroom scenario, imagine you are an observer whose task is to identify the norms, structures, and teacher and student behaviors that make this a student-centered, inquiry-oriented community of learners.

As you enter the classroom of A. Thoughtful Teacher, you immediately feel the energy generated by the students’ curiosity and excitement for learning. Seated in groups of four, students are formulating collective responses to a focus question written on the whiteboard. The teacher asks the designated reporters from each group to raise their hands. She calls on one of them, who offers a response.

“Thoughtful” waits after the student stops speaking, then says, “I’d like to get behind the thinking that led you to this response. What reasons did you discuss?” The student elaborates on her initial answer. Thoughtful then asks the entire class if they can accept this answer as a well-reasoned one: “Thumbs up, if you think this is an acceptable response; thumbs down, if you cannot follow the argument.”

How Can Quality Questioning Transform Classrooms? • 1

Thoughtful scans the room, noting that all students have their thumbs up. She then asks if there were any different answers to the question. A student raises his hand, and Thoughtful listens actively to this answer, again probing to find out the reasoning behind the response. When this student completes his explanation, another student poses a question: “I want to know if your group identified examples of this concept at work.” This student query prompts a five-minute interchange among students—with students from each small group participating. Thoughtful asks the students to think back on the ideas they’ve heard in response to the initial question. She pauses for 10 seconds or so, then asks students to share the ideas they’ve identified—one at a time. As students speak, Thoughtful creates a concept map, which displays each idea and its relationship to others. She instructs the students to talk for a few minutes in their small groups about what this graphic organizer says to them. “As you talk,” says Thoughtful, “identify any lingering questions you may have about this topic. Write each question on a separate Post-it note so that you can report out to the whole class.”

Students talk quietly in their groups. As you look around the room, you note that all students seem to be engaged. You also observe that students are actively listening to one another and taking notes from time to time. While the students are discussing, Thoughtful moves around the room and listens in on each group’s conversation. She seems to be monitoring each group’s activity at all times.

After about five minutes, Thoughtful asks for lingering questions. She moves in round-robin fashion from one group to another, asking the designated reporter in each group to read one of their questions and post it in the designated area in the classroom. “If your group had the same question as a previous group, affirm their question and...

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