Quality Questioning in the classroom!

An essential aspect of facilitating student understanding is insight into student thinking. This insight is best provided by observing how students are able to communicate their understanding. This teacher action includes those practices related to effective questioning and meaningful communication that establish what students know and are able to do.

What is an appropriate level of questioning?

The goal of every classroom teacher is to master the art of effective questioning. The questions a teacher asks should challenge his or her students and stretch their thinking beyond the concrete and obvious solutions. In order to facilitate and promote higher forms of thinking and questioning, Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom. The goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to increase the amount of analyzing and evaluating being done in the classroom and decrease the stale, low level practice of simply reciting facts.

Lorin Anderson, a former student of Bloom, revisited the learning taxonomy in the 1990s and changed the names of each category from a noun to a verb form, reinforcing the understanding that Bloom’s taxonomy is an active practice. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a road map for teachers to increase their level of questioning in the classroom. The cognitive depth of a lesson can easily be increased or decreased using the levels defined in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

What is wait time?

It is the time that the teacher waits between asking a question and calling on a student to answer it. It has been shown to increase the quality of student responses and gives students time to think through formulating their answers.

These same benefits are found when teachers pause after students respond to a question or when the teacher does not affirm answers immediately.

What are the essential parts of level questioning?

Every science lesson opens the door for a multitude of questioning opportunities by both teachers and students. In order for targeted teaching and learning to occur, the instructor must be aware of the cognitive expectation so that his/her questions can be composed accordingly. Blooms Taxonomy clearly defines the following six levels of questioning. The level of questioning used in the classroom is dependent upon the specific concept, the knowledge level of the student and the expectation identified by a specific academic standard.

Creating: This is the highest cognitive level of questioning. When a teacher asks a question on this level, students are expected to put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating new meaning or structure. Question stems for this level include the following: categorize, combine, compile, compose, create, design, explain, generate, modify, organize, plan, rearrange, reconstruct, relate or summarize.

Evaluating: This level of questioning allows students to make judgments about the value of concepts or ideas. Often, science investigations lend themselves nicely to this type of questioning. Question stems for this level include the following: appraise, compare, conclude, contrast, critique, describe, discriminate, evaluate, interpret, justify or support.

Analyzing: This questioning level allows students the opportunity to separate concepts into parts. Question stems for this level include the following: analyze, break down, compare, contrast, differentiate, distinguish, identify, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, select or separate.

Applying: Students who can successfully answer this type of question are able to use a concept in a new situation or apply their learning in the classroom to real world scenarios. Question stems for this level include the following: apply, change, compute, construct, demonstrate, discover, manipulate, operate, predict, prepare, produce, solve or use.

Understanding: This is a lower level of cognitive questioning that allows students to comprehend the meaning of instructions or problems. Question stems for this level include the following: comprehend, convert, defend, distinguish, explain, extend, generalize, give an example, interpret, paraphrase, rewrite, summarize or translate.

Remembering: This is the lowest cognitive level of questioning. At this level, students are simply being asked to recall previously learned information. Question stems for this level include the following: define, describe, identify, know, label, list, match, name, recall, recognize, select or state.

What are the essential parts of wait time?

Providing between three and seven seconds of silence, before calling students to answer higher-level questions, and providing opportunities for student to reframe their responses before responding.

What is NOT considered an appropriate level of questioning?

Choosing to ask questions that are always at the highest level of rigor is not always appropriate. It is important to understand the academic standard in order to ask questions that are at the correct level.

Choosing to ask questions that are all low level in order for students to feel a sense of success is not appropriate. In order to grow as a learner, students should be challenged. Simply taking the “easy” way out with questioning is not an appropriate way for students to feel success. Again, knowing the academic standard will drive the appropriateness of a question.

What is NOT considered wait time?

Wait time is not useful or beneficial when teachers ask rhetorical questions, ask knowledge or recall questions, ask questions in a rapid fire manner or when students are asked to brainstorm. In these situations, responses are either student choral responses or simple responses where students are not given time to reflect before responding. When called upon for these situations, often students are permitted to respond with I don’t know and therefore wait-time is not a useful tool here.

What is the role of the teacher when level questioning?

The teacher should know and understand the cognitive rigor of the academic standard being addressed so that he/she can ask questions using the appropriate level of rigor. Students are asked to perform at a variety of cognitive levels. It is the responsibility of the teacher to instruct and ask questions appropriate to standard to achieve the desired results.

The teacher should be aware of the different levels or questions so that he/she can respond appropriately to the students before, during and after an investigation. Good instruction is often driven by rich questioning on the part of the teacher. When a teacher understands questioning levels, he/she is able to increase the learning within the classroom and lead the students towards academic success.

Engage the students in the learning. Often, high school classrooms involve the teacher doing all of the talking and the students sit back and take notes. This is not an appropriate or effective way to conduct a lesson. Active academic dialog should be taking place between the teacher and students.

What is the role of the teacher while implementing wait time?

A. To ensure Wait Time is used to the benefit of learning, teachers must implement a plan that no student responses will be accepted unless called upon. This does not require raised hands, but prior to using this strategy it should be stated and students should be reminded of this.

B. To prepare questions of higher levels of cognition in advance and to ask questions at appropriate times during the lesson cycle.

What are the students doing with levels of questioning?

Students are being challenged by questions that are being asked in the classroom. Before their hand shoots up to answer, they are thinking about how to respond. Along with answering questions that cause them to think deeply, they are asking questions that help them make connections and understand a particular concept. In addition to verbally responding to questions, students are engaging in written responses in journals and portfolios or working on independent projects sparked by the teacher’s questions. Off-task behavior is low due to the academic engagement being led by a teacher who is able to ask thought-provoking questions.

What are the students doing during wait time?

Students wait to be called on; while waiting they are recalling information and formulating a response to the question. Students are given time to reframe their response and to provide a more detailed complete answer.