The Art of Questioning and Discussion!
How do you use questioning and discussion strategies in your classroom? Do you have a hard time getting your students to have meaningful discussions? How much do you think your questions stimulate students’ thinking? If you find the exercise of framing effective questions and promoting discussion difficult, you should know you are not alone. Researchers have found that high-level questioning and discussion is rarely present in k-12 classrooms. For instance, a 2008 study found that on average, only 1.7 minutes per 60 minutes of classroom instruction are dedicated to discussion. Furthermore, several studies have found that teachers score lowest on Danielson’s 3b component than in the other observable components (Walsh & Sattes, 2015).
Most of the questions asked in classrooms are recitation questions. These questions are low-level questions to check for the recollection of information. While this type of question has particular uses in the classroom, they do not promote discussion. To engage students in quality discussion, strategic questioning strategies should be used. In our Questioning and Discussion course, we explore different types of questions such as: reflective questions, elaboration questions, clarification questions, and convergent and divergent questions.
We also explore instructional strategies to challenge and nurture students’ higher-order thinking. For instance, one strategy that participants have expressed they find helpful is using Art Costa’s three-story house framework. We use this framework to position our questioning on one of three levels: (1) recall, (2) use, (3) create. This framework, like others we explore, helps participants visualize what cognitive levels their questioning strategies reach and helps them be strategic in framing future instructional experiences.
Discussion, however, requires more than quality questioning. To develop a learning environment that nurtures discussion we must be aware of our classroom setting and on the skills and dispositions students must cultivate to participate in the discussion. In our course, we discuss the social and cognitive skills students need to engage in discussion as well as the dispositions related to these skills. We also discuss different discussion protocols that help organize discussions to meet your instructional goals. Some of the discussion protocols discussed are: Affinity Mapping, Think-Pair-Share, and What? So What? Now What?
Walsh, J. A., & Sattes, B. D. (2015). Questioning for classroom discussion: Purposeful speaking, engaged listening, deep thinking. ASCD.
Walsh, J. A., & Sattes, B. D. (2016). Quality questioning: Research-based practice to engage every learner. Corwin Press.