It’s all in the question

‘Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers’ (Voltaire)

I stumbled across a disagreement between two teachers on twitter which concerned the role of the teacher in the classroom. The first advocated that the teacher’s role is to ‘facilitate learning’ whilst the second argued that the teacher’s role has to be more ‘involved’ otherwise the teacher’s importance is reduced to such an extent that the student could gain the same level of learning by going home and typing into a Google search engine.

There are numerous responses to this concerning the role of the teacher but for me their paramount importance largely arises from their ability to question the students. The teacher can and should set up situations for the students to explore but students can only be challenged to capacity if the teacher asks questions which pushes their learning to the next level. This demands an accurate assessment of students’ current understanding so that the next level of questioning can be used. This is why a knowledge of Bloom’s Taxonomy is so important.

Students can gain knowledge, skills and understanding in any number of ways and often the levels of teacher ‘involvement’ over a series of lessons will vary according to the level of teacher clarification needed by the students. The key to making all of these lessons successful is to make sure that the teacher knows how to measure the impact of the provision provided so that the teacher, and more importantly the students, are aware of the extent of student learning and what the next steps should be. In this way everyone in the classroom can make sure that the students are fully challenged. Therefore both teachers in this twitter debate can only achieve high quality lessons if they ask the appropriate questions. These must ascertain the level of learning and push students to think at a higher level.

It is also important to make sure that the greatest number of students are involved in answering these questions at all times. This is where questions with more than one right answer, making closed questions open, allowing wait time, no-hands policies, class polls, hot seating, mini whiteboards and exit passes all come into play

What questions are you going to ask your students today?

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