Importance of Questioning in Teaching, Thinking and Learning

To make teaching and learning more effective, teachers must use the right method of questioning or the right questioning techniques. It is one of many things that teachers do in the classroom. One of the ways to reach goals and make students think is to use questioning techniques. Useful questioning techniques can help students learn, improve their ability to think, come up with clear ideas, and get them to act. It is also one of the ways teachers help their students learn more efficiently.

Questions are the driving force behind critical thought

Thinking of any kind isn’t driven by answers, but rather by questions. When we learn, it is because we ask questions that stimulate thought. The trap that published coursebooks fall into – and the trap which we follow into – is that we ask questions only to get thought-stopping answers and not to generate further questions. So, how exactly are we going wrong?

The ‘Endless Content’ monster

We feed learners with endless content and this is a big problem. Content tends to lead to questions with one answer, which in turn leads to a dead-end in terms of critical thinking. One analogy I like for this phenomenon is that we are getting learners to step on the brakes of a car that is already parked. Rather than more and more content being the driving force in the classroom, what learners really need are questions that ignite their intellectual engines: they need to create questions from the questions we ask. Thinking need to go somewhere, so the questions we ask learners determine where their thinking goes. Many types of questions stimulate critical thought:

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1. Questions of purpose

These force us to define our tasks. Why are reading this text?

2. Questions of information

These require that we look at our sources of information as well as at the quality of our information. Who wrote this text, and why?

3. Deep questions

These drive thought underneath the surface of things; they force people to deal with complexity. What is the philosophical nature of the material we are reading or listening to?

4. Questions of interpretation

These make us examine how we are organizing or giving meaning to information. Why was the text presented in this way? What points did we place the most importance on while reading?

5. Questions of assumption

These require that examine what we are taking for granted. Did the material give us new insight or challenge our accepted perceptions?

6. Questions of implication

Such questions make us follow where our thinking is going. What thoughts did this listening stimulate?

7. Questions of relevance

These force us to discriminate what does and what does not have bearing on a question. Does this reading add anything to what we know/need to know?

8. Questions of point of view

These require that we examine our perspective and to consider others’ points of view. Does this text contradict my thoughts? Does it offer new insight into the subject?

9. Questions of accuracy

These force us to evaluate and test for truth and correctness. Can/Should I take what is said in this listening at face value?

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10. Questions of consistency

Such questions force us to examine our thinking for contradictions. Does everything here add up? Have I even considered the consistency of the information presented?

11. Questions of logic

These make us consider how we are putting our thoughts together, to make sure that everything adds up and makes sense within our logic system.

Dead minds come from dead questions

The superficial questions we constantly see in published teaching materials result in superficial understanding. Most students typically have no questions: their minds are silent. Any questions they do have are often superficial to say the least. Don’t blame them for this; it is a natural symptom of how they have been taught to learn. Lack of questioning shows us that they are not thinking through the content they are apparently ‘learning’. Indeed, they are not really even learning the content we think they are learning.

Fortunately, we can fix this: thinking begins when questions are formed by both teachers and students. My advice would be to approach coursebook material with your learners and see what questions from the eleven types mentioned above you – together – come up with.

Conclusion

One of the best ways to learn new things is to ask questions during teaching and learning sessions. Teachers should use questioning techniques during the teaching and learning process to keep students interested and excited about learning. Students will be more motivated and be able to think critically and creatively if they use questioning techniques. These techniques will also help students be more active in the teaching and learning process and help them improve their Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). Teachers will be able to explain important information to students through questioning techniques, which will help them understand and allow them to think at a higher level like they did before. So, teachers need to pay attention to questioning techniques in order to make sure their students can compete in the world.

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