Asking students challenging and thought-provoking questions encourages students to tap their existing mental models and build upon previous knowledge. Faculty can ask key questions to get students to see the relevance of a topic. In turn, it is hoped that students will then ask follow-up questions, engaging in dialogue while critically analyzing viewpoints shared. Therefore, by encouraging students to ask questions faculty provide opportunities for students to become actively engaged in the learning process while also developing valuable metacognitive skills that will benefit them the rest of their lives.
. . . by encouraging students to ask questions faculty provide opportunities for students to...[develop] valuable metacognitive skills that will benefit them the rest of their lives.
This article shares tips for designing and asking effective questions, during the beginning, middle and end of class, as well as asking questions outside of class.
In his book, The Craft of Teaching, Kenneth E. Eble (1988) shows the essential connection between “the art of asking questions” with meaningful class discussions (p. 88-89). Eble suggests “three cardinal principles” when forming questions:
Avoid using language that is ambiguous or not yet relevant to course content. Do not assume students know the “terminology du jour.” Asking vague questions by virtue of ambiguous or out-of-context language may elicit vague answers. Therefore, “questions should be definite and unmistakable” (Eble, 1988, p. 90, citing Fitch).
Avoid using language that is ambiguous or not yet relevant to course content.
The following tips and techniques have been compiled from of a number of sources (see references) that provide ways to prepare and deliver effective questions in the classroom. Although this list is not exhaustive, the points provide a range of ways to integrate questions in the classroom. The list begins with preparing questions and ends with ways questions can be used outside the classroom.
First and foremost, design course goals and learning objectives to help students achieve what you want them to learn. Once course goals and objectives have been developed you can begin to prepare complementary and effective questions.
Get acquainted with your students so you can customize questions that challenge them to think more critically about course content to help them learn. This does not mean that you must scrap the foundations, key concepts and content that drives your course. It means, however, that you can meet your students along the way—to challenge the knowledge they bring to the classroom and to present content through questions that is useful and relevant to them.
...customize questions that challenge them to think more critically about course content to help them learn.
Ask provocative questions to energize students into saying something.
. . . provide content in such a way that students can see how it can be used in their professions and the relevance of course content to job-related skills.
Avoid answering your own question by giving students a few seconds to form a good answer.
Using questions in the classroom can help students engage with course content, the instructor, and other students. Good instructor-generated questions can also guide students in developing better answers and help them to form questions of their own.
Good instructor-generated questions can also guide students in developing ... questions of their own.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Eble, K. E. (1988). The craft of teaching (2nd.ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Gross Davis, B. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Meyers, C., & Jones, T. B. (1993). Promoting active learning: Strategies for the college classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
McComas, W. F., & Abraham, L. (2004). Asking more effective questions. http://cet.usc.edu/resources/teaching_learning/docs/Asking_Better_Questions.pdf
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Questioning strategies to engage students. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide