Getting Them To Speak Up!
Faculty want to develop students critical thinking and problem-solving
skills. One way to do this is to ask questions in the classroom to facilitate
discussion and to get students to think. But, how many times have you tried
to get the discussion going and found that you were the only one talking
(lecturing) on the topic? Here is some information and some activities
to try to get the conversation going in the classroom--between students
and faculty and between students and students!
Questioning Skills to Promote Discussion
One of the basic mistakes we all make is to ask a question and then immediately
answer it before any student has time to even think of an answer. Most
of us are not comfortable with the silences (which can seem to last forever!)
that may be necessary for students to process information in the question,
come up with an answer that relates, to actually get their hand up to answer.
Make sure you give students and participants enough time to actually answer
any questions you pose. Also, check to make sure that you aren't looking
for a single correct answer that students couldn't possibly know unless
they could read your mind.
Put up with the SILENCE that is necessary for thinking!
After you pose a question to the group or to an individual, mentally count
to 5 (or 10) before asking someone else or before giving the answer. Do
you feel like you are waiting too long? Do the students answer the longer
you remain silent?
Types of questions
How you ask a question may affect how it is answered. If you ask "closed-ended"
questions, you may get "yes" or "no" answers, but no further discussion
will ensue. Try to ask "open-ended" questions--questions that force respondents
to talk, give information, further the discussion or to ask questions themselves.
There are a number of different types of open-ended questions. Here are
some definitions and samples.
Factual questions are used to establish basic facts and to review concepts.
They include who, what, where, when, questions. Example: "What is the standard
treatment for hypertension?"
Broadening questions are generally used to introduce additional facts and
to encourage analysis. For example: "What is the relationship between teaching
Questions used to challenge old ideas and to develop new ideas are known
as justifying questions. For example, ask: "Why do you think so?" (Obviously
no right answers to these, as an instructor, you need to look for creativity
and that the students are basing their new ideas on valid old ones, not
just "sacred cows.")
Hypothetical questions can be used to explore unknown topics and to change
the course of a discussion. For example, ask: "What if we did it this way?
What would happen?"
Alternative questions can be used to help a group make decisions between
alternatives and to gain agreement or consensus on a project or an idea.
For example, ask: "Which of book would appeal to a broader audience: 'To
Kill a Mockingbird' or 'Gulliver's Travels'?"
It is NOT important that you remember the types of questions, just that
there are a number of different ways to ask questions that can keep a discussion
going and not shut it down.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Write down at least two questions of each type for your content area. Practice
using these questions to generate discussion in your classes. Do they work?
Do they keep the discussion going? How much are you talking? How much are
the students talking?
What other questions can you use in your classes?
Grayson H. Walker Teaching Resource Center
401 Hunter Hall--Mail Code 4354
615 McCallie Ave.
Chattanooga, TN 37403-2598
(423) 425-4025 (fax)
Last updated: April 19, 2002
Comments to: Karen I. Adsit, EdD
Copyright © 1998 The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. All
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title
IX/Section 504/ADA institution.