The techniques in this post are a combination of three that I ran in my ‘10 Minute Skill Builders‘ sessions for my department, re-posted here as they are on the topic of questioning. They could easily be formed into a single session, or each expanded out to become a full CPD session in its own right.
Student ownership of questioning
This session focuses on encouraging students to take control of questioning sessions themselves, rather than having the teacher as the locus of control. It really is worth investing a lot of time in training your students to use these techniques independently; I personally use A,B,C questioning, and, after half a year of training, have got to the stage where some of my classes can run substantial discussions without any input from me at all.
The session contains a procedure to encourage more independent questioning sessions, as well as two different frameworks on which classroom discussions can be built: ‘Clarify, Probe, Recommend’ or ‘Agree, Build, Challenge’. Finally, it also has a technique for encouraging students to come up with their own excellent questions. I borrowed the Clarify, Probe, Recommend and the deep questioning tool from David Didau.
Ensuring accountability during questioning
This session responds to what I consider to be the biggest issue with using questioning within lessons: that not all students participate, either actively or even mentally, with the discussion and, as a result, not everyone is learning. Rather than explain the technique myself, below is a slide from the session which does so:
In particular, I think that it is difficult to overrate the importance of the pose (giving the question before the name of the student) and the long pause in terms of building a sense of the importance of students listening to each other in class, as well as the sense that every student must do the thinking required.
9. Building attention and focus during questioning and class discussion
In a related session to the previous one, these are techniques for improving the attention that students pay to classroom discussion and questioning, again responding to the issue about maximising learning from questioning sessions. In this session, I go over three different techniques for helping to build attention and demonstrate learning during questioning.
A favourite of mine from this session is a technique that I call ‘Active Note-Taking’ in which students are trained to take down notes of what is said in a class discussion in a kind of short hand. I find that it really helps to maximise the learning from a questioning session.