In EDU 6136, we learned more about 9 key pieces to effective instruction: Assessing prior knowledge, student assets, academic language, scaffolding, supporting, deepening, feedback, student reflection, and teacher reflection. Since reading more on these ideas, I have found myself implementing them more in my instruction. My growth as a teacher through this course is evident in how I approach lesson planning. Many of the changes I’ve seen in my approach is in my questioning. I want to find ways to deepen student learning and do so through effective questions that leave students thinking more about the answer than I thought about asking the question. I feel this shift is closely related to HOPE Principle P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. By ensuring my questioning is intentional, I can ask questions that bring about the kinds of answers that will help students better understand concepts.
For my Classroom Tips assignment, I created a Questioning Questions sheet that I, and other teachers, can look over when coming up with questions for a lesson. Inspired by Caram and Davis (2005), one of our readings for the course, it helps highlight the kinds of questions that do not cause deeper thinking and guides educators to use more effective questions. When used in conjunction with a goal of using multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom et. al., 1956), questions can be designed to have students think in meaningful ways about the content.
Additionally, according to Caram and Davis, “Teachers need to go with the flow, using student responses to bring depth and breadth to the lesson” (2005, p. 20). Not only do we need to have questions planned, but we must also be ready to abandon some of those questions we took so much time to create in order to ask questions and elaborate on ideas that will better benefit student understanding. This is why I am beginning to create a scale of questions for each lesson. While each lesson does not need a full outline, it is important to have key questions prepared – the questions that must be asked, the questions that can be asked, and the questions that can be dropped. The higher-order questions should be in the first category, while lower-order questions are included in case there is time, but can be dropped should a more important discussion present itself.
Using this system, students will be asked the questions that will deepen their knowledge, will still be able to learn based on their immediate interest or needs, and teachers will be able to get students thinking more about important concepts.
Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.
Caram, C. A., & Davis, P. B. (2005). Inviting student engagement with questioning. Kappa Delta Pi Rec 42(1) p. 18-23
P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. Using questions in the classroom can help students think about what they are learning and how it applies to the world outside of the classroom. It can also help students better understand the processes and complexities involved in a concept. When I observed Mrs. L’s 4th grade class on September 16, I realized what a key role questions played in getting students thinking.
When listening to her line of questioning, I found that she hardly ever let a closed question rest. In math, there are typically only “right or wrong” answers, but Mrs. L has them explain their thoughts behind it. The students are shown a problem and asked to respond on mini white boards, as shown in Images 1, 2, and 3. If their work is not shown, it is considered wrong. This technique gives her immediate feedback on where individual students might be struggling, which she tracks on note paper for reference when there is time to conference with her math students or to better plan instruction.
Having the students explain their work also allows Mrs. L to know which key pieces might be missing from their overall understanding of the concept.
Before this summer, I thought that formal assessment such as quizzes and tests would be the best measure of student progress. When I read about the many informal formative assessment methods, I thought they might feel out-of-place and forced. Seeing similar strategies at work in a classroom make the idea of formative assessment less intimidating. Simply asking students to go deeper into content is an excellent way to get them thinking critically and to make sure they are understanding the content.