Why Questioning?

  • “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: “So? Did you learn anything today?” But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference--asking good questions-- made me become a scientist!” - Isidor I. Rabi
  • “Once you have learned how to ask relevant and appropriate questions, you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.” - Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner
  • “The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.” - Claude Lévi-Strauss
  • Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.” Clayton Christensen via Jason Fried
  • "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - Voltaire
  • “Questions may be the most powerful technology we have ever created. Questions and questioning allow us to make sense of a confusing world. They are the tools that lead to insight and understanding.” - Jamie McKenzie
  • “Perplexity is the goal of engagement … What matters most is the question, ‘Is the student perplexed?’ Our goal is to induce in the student a perplexed, curious state, a question in her head that math can help answer.”- Dan Meyer
  • “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” - Albert Einstein

Answers v Questions

(Teacher Questions v Student Questions)
  • Teacher Questions
    • Asking students questions, especially higher order questions that require a bit of wait time can be an excellent form of formative evaluation
    • Asking students higher order questions can be a way to stretch their thinking or push them to think in new ways
  • Student Questions
    • Asking students to use what they know to write their own questions can also be an excellent form of formative evaluation
    • Asking students to consider what they are confused by, what they wonder, what they think they are missing, etc. can be an even better form of formative evaluation
      • promotes curiosity/inquiry (increased relevance, increased motivation)
      • improves comprehension and retention
      • shows a desire to know more
      • requires knowledge & ability to see what you’re missing (known unknowns)
      • can reveal more than answers
      • illuminate learning and misunderstanding
      • fits with a “Google” mindset

The Reality Of The Classroom

Question Classification

  • Question Starters
    • Gather/brainstorm a range of questions
    • Ask students how they might be grouped/classified (see Questioning Toolkit)
    • Examine how others suggest classifying questions (Question Starters, Bloom's Prompts, Socratic Prompts)
    • Pick a primary method to use throughout the year
    • Have students categorize the questions at the end of a section/chapter according to the question starters
    • Have students read a section from a textbook (or a web page) and write their own questions based on the question starters - also a form of test prep
    • Have students categorize the types of questions you ask before they answer them
    • At the start of a new unit, have students brainstorm a wide variety of questions (maybe use a KWL/H chart) and categorize them by question type
    • Tape several different TV interviews. Have the students analyze the interviewers questions and then have the students conduct their own interviews
    • Note Taking / Research (see Mini Integration Ideas below)
    • Commenting/Feedback (see Mini Integration Ideas below)

Essential Questions

Reflective Questioning

Inquiry Projects

Socratic Questioning

Mini Integration Ideas

  • KWH or KWL Charts
  • FAQs - Students collect FAQs or write their own, imagining what someone new to the topic might ask.
  • Exit Tickets (can be done via Google forms or with other electronic tools such as Formative)
    • Students pose a clarifying question about something that confuses them
    • Students pose an "I wonder ..." question
    • Students pose a probing question
    • Students suggest a question that might appear on a quiz
  • Commenting - Instead of asking students to suggest improvements or additions when critiquing each others' work, have them turn their critiques into clarifying questions, probing questions (considering alternatives, I Wonder ..., or other Socratic prompts), etc.
  • Note Taking / Research - Have students post a non-recall question or questions after summarizing a resource (or use two column notes)
  • Teach students to ask clarifying and probing questions in class and when commenting online. Question Types and Socratic prompts (see below) can help here.
  • 1 Minute, 5 Minute and Dinner Questions
    • Dinner Questions - Send a puzzling/messy/interesting question home as a "Dinner question." Use twitter, blog, etc. to send directly to parents too. Ask the students what further questions this raised at home.
  • Think-Pair-Share
    • Teachers pose a higher order question, giving students time to process/answer it before they work with a partner or group
    • Teachers give students think time to pose their own higher order question before they ask their partner or group the question
  • Think Tanks
  • End all experiments, research projects, lessons with a new list of questions worth considering, "Now that I know ... I wonder ..." The new unanswered questions are as important as the answered questions.

Integration Ideas

Related Links

The people who change the world aren’t the people who ask the questions, but those who question the answers. - Ann Brown (Is this an accurate quote?)