EDU 6526: Questioning as a Teaching Method

We used to complete a lot of worksheets when I was a student in elementary school. I also remember my teacher lecturing and using direct instruction for a significant portion of the school day. According to Dr. Scheuerman, worksheets are still widely used in classrooms today. In fact when I volunteered for a 3rd grade classroom a few years ago, the teacher had me make hundreds of copies of math worksheets for the students to complete as homework throughout the year. While worksheets and direct instruction can be useful, I would hesitate to use them more than other methods of teaching, such as questioning as part of an inquiry-based approach.

I was one of those students who wanted to have the correct answer every time. I wasn’t comfortable with any ambiguity in the answers. I still struggle with this way of thinking, but my goal as a future teacher will be to ask more questions and leave things up to the students to interpret and think about on their own. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) discuss several models for teaching students to be inquiry-based learners. The Biological Science Inquiry Model (BSIM), the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM), and the Synetics model all incorporate questioning as a teaching tool to get the students to think, analyze, and be creative writers (Joyce et al., 2015).

BSIM is typically used when teaching a science lesson, however it can be used to teach other subjects as well. BSIM can change the way students process information, encourage them to be open-minded, and also can help them think about alternative answers for why things happen (Joyce et al., 2015). Asking questions such as, “what factors were different in these two environments?” or “what could have caused this population to die out?” can help the students consider their prior knowledge and build on it through experiments. Instead of giving the students the end result or knowledge, leading them to discover the information for themselves will be much more impactful.

PWIM starts with a picture for students to observe and come up with words to describe what they see. With PWIM, the teacher can ask obvious questions such as “what do you see?” or “how exactly did you make that word plural?” and the students will learn to use their imagination and phonics skills to arrive at some answers. This is another example of the teacher questioning the students to consider and analyze words instead of giving them the answers directly. This in turn helps to build their awareness of words, their forms, and ways to incorporate them in their own writing.

Ask questions about what the student sees in the picture.

Ask questions about what the student sees in the picture.

Finally the Synetics Model makes use of analogies to help the students cultivate creativity, see multiple perspectives, and develop empathy for others. Questioning is heavily used in this model. For example, asking the students “how is a teacher like a computer?” can help them understand metaphors, analogies, and comparisons more fully. Building on this, they can make personal analogies as a way to “transport oneself into another space or object” (Joyce et al., 2015, p.158). Asking the students to imagine themselves as a car engine in the morning and to describe how they feel when they first wake up or get started can help them see something from a different perspective and gain conceptual distance (Joyce et al., 2015). The following image describes in detail the different levels of personal analogies that teachers can look for.

Ask students questions like "How would I feel if I were a car?"

Ask students questions like “How would I feel if I were a car?”

Being able to successfully ask questions and guide the students to their own discovery is a critical skill to acquire as a new teacher. I hope my future students can be more creative thinkers than I was as a student.

Reference: Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

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