Friday, November 12, 2010

What do Questioning Strategies have to do with Expectations?

I've been researching questioning stategies recently.  It turns out that I'm learning a lot more than I thought I would.  As part of my research, I've come across some fantastic examples of questioning by math teachers.  These examples got me thinking about our expectations of students and how our questioning techniques reflect these expectations.

What do we expect from our students?  Do we expect them to wait for us to work through the problem for them? Or, do we expect students to think through problems on their own?  Do we expect students to communicate mathematically?

The way we question students is directly related to our expectations of them.  The questions we ask, or don't ask, imply our expectations.  The following examples demonstrate questioning strategies of teachers who expect students to think and communicate about thier learning. 

Check out this masterful questioning of an Algebra student by David Cox.  He uses a series of questions to get his student past "I don't know how to do this."  How often have we heard that one?!  He helps the student focus on what they do know in order to answer the given problem.  His questioning techniques speak volumes of his expectation that the student do the thinking.  I would also guess that the student felt much more satisfaction and confidence at the end of conversation than they would have if David had worked the problem for them.

Tom Woodward's videos (see videos below) provide another example of excellent questioning in a math classroom.  This teacher is a master of facilitating mathematical discourse.  She continually requires the students to do the thinking and communicating about the problem they are solving.  What struck me was that whether the students were right or wrong in their thinking, the teacher never stopped asking questions to get them to communicate with each other.  At one point a student is speechless when asked a question by the teacher.  A few questions later, he is jumping right in with his thoughts. 

Here's the problem that is being solved by students in the following videos.  In his post, Tom said the teacher had the questions more clearly delineated.  I would also suggest reformatting the question before using it with students.

Math Questioning from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

Refining Solutions from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

The teacher in this video expected her students to discuss the problem among themselves.  Everything she did in her conversations with students indicated that expectation.  I noticed how excited the student's were about solving the problem.  They really seemed to be enjoying the process of problem solving.  Wouldn't we all love see students enjoying problem solving in math class?! 

My take away from these examples is that we must align our expectations and our questioning techniques.  If we expect our students to problem solve and communicate mathematically, we should use questions to help guide the way rather than giving in and doing the thinking for them.

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What do Questioning Strategies have to do with Expectations? by Love of Learning Educaitonal Services, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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