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Opening the Door to Effective Questioning

Our friends in the video above are learning a lot about each other through their questions. Can you tell if some questions are more informative than others?

The use of quality questions is one of the most important teaching skills that a teacher can possess. Done properly, and intentionally, asking the right question in the right way at the right time to the right student can increase classroom engagement and encourage learners to activate their higher level thinking.

One way to think about questions is through the analogy of a door, either closed or open. In order to be effective, a door needs to be able to smoothly accomplish both motions. When tightly closed, the door keeps the inside of a room secure, which is a necessity. However, equally important, a door needs to open in order to let its occupants move on to greater adventures.

Asking both open and closed questions in your classroom can allow for the same sort of range in your classroom. Closed questions are convergent, or ones that move student thinking to a narrow or finite choice of correct answers. These questions are especially valuable when checking for student understanding.

Open questions are divergent in nature. The answers that are solicited when asking questions of this kind allow students to think more deeply and respond with a wide range of possible answers. As a teacher, much can be gleaned from these responses. One can determine which students are thinking at an abstract level, which ones may be less inclined to take a risk, as well as which ones may need a bit of reteaching of the concept.

Being able to ask both types of questions and knowing when to ask them takes much practice. Once a teacher possesses the skill of questioning, both planning engaging and productive lessons becomes easier for the educator, and thus, more beneficial to the learners.

Oh, be sure to encourage your students to ask more open questions, too!

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