Last time, we thought about who does the questioning, and whom is questioned during a lesson. I dared you to listen back to your own teaching and to try to assign questions as homework.
Types of Questions
At NAGC, I saw the wonderful Shelagh Gallagher present on some of her father, James Gallagher’s, research on questioning.
Gallagher and Ascher created a taxonomy of four types of questions:
A memory question asks students to remember an isolated fact:
- Who is the protagonist in this story?
- What year was the Declaration of Independence signed?
- How many hydrogen atoms are in a water molecule?
Answers can be one word or short phrases.
Convergent questions require an explanation, but have a right answer:
- Why did the protagonist say this?
- How would you get from New York to Boston?
- Why is carbon heavier than hydrogen?
Note that convergent questions might ask “why,” but we expect one certain.
Evaluative questions ask students for an opinion plus supporting evidence.
- Who was a better American president, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson?
- Which character handled their problem best, Charlie Bucket or Matilda?
- Which method is best to solve this division problem?
In evaluative questions, we’re concerned with students’ explanation rather than just their initial answer.
And, finally, divergent questions ask students to consider the effects of an alternate situation. There may not be a right answer at all.
- What if Earth had half of its oceans? How would that affect our atmosphere?
- What if we banned cars? How would our cities change?
- What if Ron Weasley wasn’t in Harry Potter? How would that affect the stories?
Note that divergent questions require huge answers in comparison to earlier questions. They also demand a pretty deep understanding of the topic. I wrote more examples of divergent questions here
What Do You Ask?
Each type of question has a role. But, some will get kids’ minds sweating more vigorously than others.
Last time, I dared you to listen to your own teaching to see who was asking the questions. Now I double dare you! Record yourself, listen back, and count up what type of questions you ask.
What’s your pie chart look like? And how can you sneak more divergent and evaluative questions in?
Did you do it? You’re my hero. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it went!
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