Engaging Learners through the Power of Questioning – Teacher Professional Development

Engaging Learners through the Power of Questioning Questioning is definitely one of my favorite topics when it comes to teaching and learning. As a former high school teacher, I certainly have plenty of experience that confirms Starr Sackstein’s comment in her blog post that students’ inquisitiveness tends to diminish as they move through school. There is no question that in classrooms, we emphasize answers much more than we do questions. And the questions that we hear are more frequently teacher questions.

So first, why is it important for us to pay more attention to questioning? Provocative questions tap into our natural inquisitiveness. Relevant questions spark the brain’s search for personal connection and meaning. And, by the way, forming answers isn’t the only way for students to engage in complex thinking…forming questions can be equally challenging and revealing.

Only thirty two percent of the educators in EdWeek’s recent study, Engagement Landscape, reported that they are “good at engaging and motivating [their] students” and only fourteen percent “strongly agree that their preservice training provided such preparation.” Interestingly, the study does not specifically list questioning as one of the “effective strategies” to increase student engagement!

Helping students to not only keep asking questions, but to improve the questions that they ask begins with a classroom that values questions. A teacher might create that environment by framing curriculum with essential questions, by skillfully naming and using different question types (e.g., clarifying/probing, open/closed), by following questions with wait time and opportunity for multiple learners to respond to one another (not just the teacher)…and by eliciting student questions.

If you’re wondering, how you can learn more,

  • here are some resources to help you dig deeper into the idea of questioning:

http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Questioning

http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Question+Starters

  • here’s a specific strategy for how to help students to develop better questions

http://amorebeautifulquestion.com/can-teach-kids-question/ – I loved this – when students start thinking in questions…

  • and here’s a summer professional development opportunity to help you get started!

http://rightquestion.org/

How about sharing some of your own thoughts about the power of questioning as a way to engage learners?