The NaTioNal ScieNce TeacherS aSSociaTioN Questions, questions, questions They area large part of a teacher’s stock-in-trade. We use questions to help students review, to check on comprehension, to stimulate critical thinking, to encourage creativity, to emphasize a point, to control classroom activities and cut down on disruptive behavior, to help determine grades, to encourage discussion, to discourage inattentiveness, and for other reasons and purposes. Questioning style and content varies from teacher to teacher, student group to student group, and situation to situation.
The aim of this How to . . .” booklet is to help you focus on a common teaching activity the asking of questions. To illustrate some of the classifications and concepts discussed, excerpts from a videotaped lesson to third graders on magnetism appears at the end of this booklet.
As teachers we sometimes get so involved in asking questions that we don’t give much time to analyzing why and how we do it questioning seems such a natural technique. But if we analyzed the questions we ask during a class period, we might be surprised by the results. We would probably discover that most questions are designed to determine only whether a student does or does not know a particular item of information. But our questions need to do more. “Who can briefly review what we did yesterday Why don’t you pay attention What do you think would happen if. . . ?” Whats the name of the planet closest to the Sun Do you think anything else might have influenced your results Wheres your homework Can you design an experiment to test the hypothesis Whats chlorophyll How do you know that’s granite and not gneiss Whats the answer to question The science curriculum improvement projects of the s promoted hands-on activities in science and student inquiry, based on the rationale that students develop better understandings of the nature of science and are more interested in science if they are actively involved in doing science. Learning by doing, is still advocated in science teaching now. However, while the manipulation of equipment and materials is important in science classrooms, it is also necessary that students minds be engaged by the activity. Helping students develop their problem solving skills needs to be planned for—it does not necessarily occur as a byproduct of doing science.
The science curricula of the s also reflect the influence of additional points of view concerning what is important for students to learn. One of these is the emphasis on science, technology, and society (STS). STS proponents argue that the purpose of school science is not to create future scientists but citizens who understand that science is multidimensional and multidisciplinary, and who can participate intelligently in problem solving and decision making about how science and technology are used Another emphasis, constructivism, is derived from research in educational psychology Photograph from Digitalvision
how To aSk The righT queSTioNS about learning and is focused on conceptual change. Constructivists say that learners build or construct their own knowledge based on their observations and experiences. If learners self-constructed knowledge differs from the concepts presented informal science instruction, then curriculum materials and instructional approaches must be used that bring about conceptual change (Roth, All three emphases have implications for the kinds of questions teachers ask in science. If students are to discover, if students are to become better problem solvers, if students are to comprehend that their intuitive, everyday ways of explaining the world around them need to be adapted in order to better describe, predict, explain, and control natural phenomena they need to develop higher-order thinking skills. Some teachers believe that students must learn facts first, and then be asked to think about them. This overlooks the importance of the many processes by which facts maybe acquired. Thinking is away of learning (Raths, Wasserman, Jonas, and Rothstein, 1986, p. 2–3). Therefore, the kinds of questions teachers ask influence the level of thinking operations students engage in. We still need, at times, to check for the correct recall of basic items of information, but this should be only one of the reasons for asking questions, not the primary reason.
The remainder of this booklet is devoted to providing some methods which you can use to analyze your questioning strategies and to suggest some techniques for developing variety in the kinds of questions you ask.