Questioning Our Students

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

By Nancy Mikhail

When teaching our students, it’s important to consistently question them about what they are doing, observing, building, or experimenting. As their instructor, you could gain a lot of insight to what they understand, what they are thinking, and any misconceptions they may have so you can correct them.

Some educators use the observation method and discussion with students as the sole way of assessing them. That could be argued, but it goes to show that it is a very powerful tool to determine our students’ knowledge.

Benefits of questioning our students:

  1. Gives us feedback of what students know or misconceptions.

  2. Gives students an opportunity to reteach the content if they are explaining something to you.

  3. Helps students make connections and comprehend the situation or content.

  4. Engages the students in the content which could lead to greater motivation.

  5. Helps students realize importance to the task at hand

  6. Helps with retention of content

  7. Improves vocabulary and speaking abilities

How do we question our students? What kinds of things should we ask them? Is there a correct way of questioning our students?

There are different types of questions you could ask your students and it’s beneficial to ask them a variety of questions.

  1. ’What’ Questions: When asking ‘what’ questions, you are asking students questions that they can tell you through observation. For example, if you are doing a baking soda and vinegar science experiment, you could ask students what they observe or what is happening at the moment. Other types of questions could be: what could happen next or what is causing the event to occur.

  2. ‘Why’ Questions: I love why questions because it really causes students to think about the reason behind what is happening. It could also lead to more ideas, information, and research. Going back to the vinegar and baking soda experiment, simply asking ‘Why is this reaction occurring?’ could lead to a possible prediction then research. Then students will learn what kind of reaction is occurring and could dig deeper into the topic.

  3. ‘How’ Questions: How questions lead to engineering type of questions because students are wondering how things work or how something is happening. Students will think about how something is built, how a reaction is occurring or how something is working.

Tips of Questioning Students: *Plan a few questions ahead of time (and make sure you know the answers :-): Questions will most likely come up during the activity, but it’s good to have a few questions on hand to start with.

*Make sure to link questions with what students are doing

*Analyze the answers from your students and follow-up with relevant questions

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