Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Teaching and the Importance of Questioning

QUESTIONING is as perennial as Teaching but not too much importance is accorded to Questioning when it comes to determining factors for effective learning. Today, Instruction precedes Questioning as a priority factor of success. Based on the feedback i received from participating teachers during my workshop on "Effective Questioning Skills" where we discussed approaches like Question Matrix, 5W & H and few others it  came to fore that the real premise for ineffectiveness of Questioning was not as much to do with the tools and techniques but the reason for using Questioning. The role of a good teacher is not to prepare learner for securing good marks in exams but to prepare him for life by instilling in him/ her the art of asking questions and asking the right ones. Somewhere we, as teachers, are unable to inculcate the skill of Questioning in the learner as we our self have fuzzy thoughts about the skill, our own conviction and trust in "Questioning" is lacking.

Given that the art of Questioning is as old as Teaching and all of us
are well versed with Socratic approach to Questioning, his interrogative ways of extracting knowledge still we are unable to implement Questioning effectively in our teaching. As teachers, we need to realise that Questioning has a much larger role to play in our teaching and education than just be a parameter for gauging pupil's success in exam. The need of the hour is to understand the principles of questioning and then integrate it in the teaching process.The fundamentals of Questioning are very well presented in the book titled "The Art of Questioning" by Joshua Girling Fitch. This all time classic book delves deep into the problem of why questioning is ineffective and then suggests ways to address those highlighted gaps. I am sharing here some of the key tenets of Questioning (derived from the mentioned book) that would help approach the subject in the right way. 
  • Questioning to be treated more as a process than an outcome, the focus being on ensuring that Questioning builds up the requisite knowledge in the learner.
  • Questioning is as much about understanding how much a person knows as about how less he/ she knows. This will make the learner inquisitive and take ownership for his/ her learning
  • Questioning serves 2 key purpose :
    • Questioning of Instruction while actually delivering a lesson
    • Questioning of Examination while testing the knowledge of the learner post delivery of lecture
  • Question posed to the learner should ensure an effort on part of the learner while answering. This effort could be in the form of memory, imagination, judgement, perception, and like. While answering the learner should feel challenged enough and should mentally exert himself/ herself and put thinking in action.
  • Framing questions which are vague, wide and indefinite to be avoided 
  • The language of the Question be as simple as possible and in as few words as possible. Further the question be adapted to the age and capacity of the learners.
  • Questions should say only that much which would elicit the learner to say as much as possible.
  • Facts should not be put in the question. Rather an attempt should be made to educe every fact from the learners
  • Questioning should not encourage guesswork as this will adversely affect the "thinking" process in learners and breed shallowness and deception in learners.
  • Questioning is more of an implicit trait rather than an explicit one. It's sole purpose is to trigger a mental activity in the learner to make him/ her aware about the level of ignorance and the effort required. 
The book describes many other principles also but even if the the above mentioned principles are remembered and put in practice by teachers, it will definitely ensure a well integrated approach towards Teaching and Questioning. A well balanced approach to Questioning would help the learner become not only a knowledge seeker but a self-reliant life-long learner as well.

All said and done, the implementation is as good as the implementor. Teacher being the key carrier and communicator of Questioning process, the passion to get the best out of every pupil will go a long way in ensuring success of Questioning as yet another effective Teaching approach.

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