Monday, August 24, 2009

Be Specific When Asking Questions

One of my first years as a teacher, I started going over homework in class. I'd have the students take out their papers and trade with someone. I'd read the answers and they would check. When we were done checking, they'd hand the paper back to its owner. I'd ask, "Are there any questions?" Most of the time there weren't any. I'd collect the papers, glance over them, record the scores, and hand them back the next day. This went on for several days and then it was time for the test. Oh my! The scores were horrible. I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. My teachers used to have us correct papers in class and there never seemed to be this kind of problem.

I finally figured out that students don't ask questions, most of them anyway. I discovered that I had to be more specific. Instead of "Are there any questions?" I would say something like, "Number 20 looked like it could be a little difficult. Sarah, did you have any problem with it?" If Sarah said "no," I would then say, "Did anyone have a question about number 20?" If anyone said "yes," then I would ask if Sarah could explain it to them. On the other hand, if Sarah said she had trouble with the question, then I would ask someone else if they could explain it. I found that by asking specific questions about difficult problems, I could get a better response. The next test did have improved scores.

The same applies to parents. Parents who ask their kids, "What did you do in school today?" will usually get an answer of "nothing." Now, the child was in school for 7 to 8 hours. Any parent knows they had to do something during that time. Parents, too, need to be more specific in their questions. "Who is your favorite teacher?" "Did you talk to anyone before or after class?" "Are any of your friends' lockers near yours?" "Do you have math homework tonight?" "Did your teachers give any long term assignments like a term paper or science project?"

Being specific isn't a complete solution, but it can get a conversation started.

No comments:

Post a Comment