The purposes of a teacher's questioning are apparent:
To find out if the student has learned what has been taught:
How many are 15 plus 15? How do you spell arithmetic? Why did Marc Antony turn his back on Rome?
To obtain information about the child:
What is the best time you ever had? What worries you the most? What is your favorite school subject? What do you value most in a friend? What do you like to do in your spare time?
To direct the student's thinking:
What step do you take first when setting up a long-division problem? What second? Which among this list of research topics about ancient Rome do you choose for yourself?
When the teacher's purpose is to find out if the student has learned what has been taught (#1 above), and the teacher is leading the whole class, the purposes of questioning become more complicated. Some of the students, whose hands wave wildly, know all the answers, while others, no hands waving, know none of them. Teachers naturally tend to let knowledgeable students answer, hoping that the know-nothings will pick up some knowledge. Is there a better way?
The answer: frequent quizzes and tests, both teacher administered and student self administered. The teacher finds out what each student knows and doesn't know, and each student finds out what he or she knows and doesn't know. This information is a spur to teacher creativity - how can the student be taught this? - and to student creativity - how can I learn this?
There is an approach to learning - Students Questioning Students (SQS) - that adds another dimension to questioning in classrooms. SQS is appropriate at any grade level, and it can be used to solve common classroom problems (interpersonal problems, management problems) or academic problems (how can we solve Problem A in geometry). For further information, see this Web site:
Click on the links below to see other principles of teaching: