Questions about questions

August 28, 2008 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

Don Skinner, (Academic Co-ordinator for Education Courses and Deputy Head of Department, Moray House) delivered a lecture on Tuesday on modes of teaching. As part of this, he talked about some problems with the use of questions in teaching. He said research shows teacher questions can hinder pupil discussions in the classroom. I’m editing heavily here, but the basic idea is pupils try to guess the answer the teacher wants, rather than thinking deeply and formulating their own view. Don Skinner also said if you want children to ask questions, one very effective technique is to stop asking questions yourself. Typically, teachers ask far more questions in class than pupils do. This reminded me of a similar issue from my speech and language therapy training; I remember being warned that, unless you take steps to avoid it, you will talk far more than the child with speech/language difficulties during speech therapy sessions.

Anyway, back to questions. Don Skinner was concerned about how to deal with the problems associated with questions in light of the popularity of the dialogic teaching approach. It made me think: questions don’t have these problematic effects in counselling and helpline work. Could teachers use questions in the same way as helpline workers? Or will children always think teachers have an answer in mind when they ask questions? Could you train a class out of this if you were careful with your questioning?

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Entry filed under: pedagogy.

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