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5 Ways to Help Your Students Become Better Questioners

Questioning makes student better

Questioning is simple, yet, is powerful. Thus, it is vital. Especially, in today’s world, where algorithms shape and dictate thinking patterns. Questioning has some great benefits listed in this article. Continue reading to find them.

Questions are powerful means to employ (read unleash) creative potential.

Jeff Boss, author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations

Questioners display higher brain activity as they puzzle through information received. Questions result in better understanding. Thus, better knowledge. Channelling this information further turns knowledge into power.

The Effect of Questioning on our Brain

Neil Cooper, an innovator, claims questions “hijack” our thoughts. Questions cause mental reflexes known as ‘instinctive elaboration’. Whether we choose to respond or not, questions still shape our thoughts. Our brains are automatic solution seekers. Hence, when posed with a problem, finding the solution is prioritised. When the brain is asked two questions simultaneously, it is programmed to respond to the most recent stimulus. Unless an effort is consciously made to answer the first question, overriding our natural reaction.

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Types of Questions

In traditional teaching methods, it is often the teacher who does the questioning. It should be students who do the questioning as well as the answering. This takes us to the types of questions asked in a classroom.

First, there are literal questions. The answers found in reading the text recommended by the teacher or even typed on Google. For example, what is the source of the reference used in the essay?

Second, there are open-ended questions. Class teachers should particularly encourage these types of questions. Critical thinking and independent thinking take place as children pursue ideas. An example of an open-ended question is tell me more about the relationship between these two variables?

Third, there are rhetorical questions. A response to these types of questions is usually not required but makes the recipient think. For example, the new government is doing well, isn’t it?

Fourth, there are leading questions. Questions like this usually result in the recipient directed toward a specific answer. For example, do you have any problems with your teacher?

Examples of questions that students should be asking:

  • What are the causes of the problem?
  • What are the effects of the problem?
  • Are there any implications?
  • Should we be considering any other possibilities?
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Benefits of Questioning

1. Control the direction of the conversation.

This is particularly useful in convincing and coercing decisions in the students’ favour.

2. Gathering information is like a jigsaw puzzle.

Probing questions can unearth information as well as help students categorise information.

3. Encouraging a response out of a person.

Questioning prompts the recipient to divulge the information that they have. This can be useful in a social setting to enable the forging of close relationships.

4. Encouraging an exchange of information

Giving attention to another person prompts an exchange of interests. As they pay attention to you, in return, as common courtesy, exchanges can take place.

5. Proving a point.

Rhetorical questions and Socratic questions make the other person deliberate. These types of strategic questioning can be useful in proving a point. This is particularly true with loaded and leading questions. Tag questions also further channel another person’s thinking process in your direction.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” We should also question the realities we face. After all, better questions lead to better answers.

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How to encourage questioning

1. Bust the myth that questions are a sign of weakness.

Award points to those students who ask relevant questions. Follow the ten by ten rule. It allows for ten questions within ten minutes. Thus, children can exercise their questioning muscle in freedom. After all, questioning is a sign of intelligence and strength.

2. Introduce them to the famous questions of history

Famous thinkers, innovators, scientists and philosophers have been asking open-ended questions. Introduce your class to some questions and let your students attempt some.

“Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?”

Bertrand Russell

3. Gamify the spirit of questioning

Introduce them to Bhimrao Ambedkar, India’s first Law minister. “Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why” by Sowmya Rajendran and Satwik Gade is a great storybook. It is appropriate for ages six to fourteen. Corporates have also adopted the practice of asking five consecutive why questions. This helps them get to the root of the problem. Apply it to the classroom. Or, use the why, what if and how the sequence of questioning to tackle each problem. Channelise their natural questioning ability to further their imagination.

4. The temptation to not Google but to grapple

In today’s digital world where machines are modelled after the brain, are we pursuing the creativity of asking questions with zeal? What would change if we encouraged our students to not Google questions, but to grapple with them instead? Promote sharing the problem with others and build on it only till you can’t proceed. It can be exhausting, but much more rewarding.

5. Making questioning a habit

All new habits build new neural pathways in the brain. These need to be exercised in a consistent manner. Questioning helps see the familiar in new and profound ways.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Asking Questions

  • Ensure you have a relaxed and amicable body language.
  • Ask without accusing and being intrusive.
  • Request information politely.
  • Don’t use questions that don’t match your teaching style.
  • Ask questions related to course content and ongoing discussions.
  • Ask questions relating to students’ interests.
  • Provide just enough content for students to formulate answers.
  • Do not stop the discussion with the right answer.
  • Encourage but do not force quiet students to answer.
  • Pause for three seconds before and after asking a question.

Since questions help to teach as well as learn, we should be doing it more. Analysis and evaluation skills are important life skills. Especially, in this digital age where information comes from all directions. Questioning enhances the psychological safety of students. Ultimately, fostering a motivating environment. Thus, affecting the achievements of educational outcomes.

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