Research suggests teachers ask over 400 questions a day.
Research suggests that teachers tend to wait for 0.7 seconds to 3 seconds. This is not long enough to enable pupils to think of a good answer.
How much thinking time is the correct amount? What is the right amount of wait time?
Research carried out during the National Strategy determined that some pupils do not start to think of an answer until 10 seconds or more has elapsed. 30 seconds is commonly thought to be a suitable waiting time for a class to consider a challenging question and to prepare and think through a full answer.
More time is needed if pupils are to discuss a question and collaborate on forming an extended, detailed or ‘examination’ type answer.
As teachers we tend to ask questions in the “knowledge and comprehension” (the two lowest levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning) order categories for 80% to 90% of the time. These questions are not in themselves bad but using them all the time does not promote good thinking or challenge learners to think beyond what they know and understand.
Developing questioning approaches, requires much greater emphasis on the time provided for students to think individually, collaboratively and deeply to enable them to develop answers and to share better answers. This will improve their thinking and engagement.
Teachers use questioning as part of their teaching for many reasons, but often to:
- maintain the flow of the learning within the lesson;
- engage students with the learning;
- assess what has been learned, and check that what has been learnt is understood and applied;
- test student memory and comprehension;
- to initiate individual and collaborative thinking in response to new information;
- seek the views and opinions of pupils;
- provide an opportunity for pupils to share their opinions/views, seeking responses from their peers;
- encourage creative thought and imaginative or innovative thinking;
- foster speculation, hypothesis and idea/opinion forming;
- create a sense of shared learning and avoid the feel of a ‘lecture’;
- challenge the level of thinking and possibly mark a change to a higher order of thinking;
- model higher order thinking using examples and building on the responses of students.
The deeper one looks into the effectiveness of questioning in the classroom the more complex the research material gets. Bloom’s Taxonomy and De Bono’s Thinking Hats, for example, theorise and draw conclusions it is hard to disagree with, but in the day to day hustle and bustle environment of a classroom do we pay enough attention to the theories in our every day practice? Do we plan our questioning styles enough in our lesson planning? Do we look at the learning objectives and decide beforehand what we would like to ask the children to draw out evaluation and analysis? Hopefully the answer is yes because that is good teaching, but we could be forgiven for occasionally lapsing and reverting to the simpler who, why, when and what (knowledge) questions.
The value and purpose of educational research was recently the subject of a TES article which stated there is an increasing concern that teaching practice should be informed by research, but educationalists warn that as soon as academic work is viewed as a silver bullet, it can become dangerous.
In the same article research figures in the classroom according to the Teacher Research Engagement: What do we know and what can we learn? National Foundation for Educational Research showed the following: 70% of teachers said that they knew where to find relevant research material that might help inform their teaching practice or methods; 69% said that information from research plays an important role in informing teaching practice; and 68% said they used information from research to help decide how to implement new approaches in the classroom.
However, when teachers were asked to rank the different influences on their decision-making, 16% of teachers said that literature based on academic research influenced their decisions; and 8% used online evidence platforms. By contrast, 67% said that their own ideas influenced their decision-making, and 33% cited ideas from other schools. So much for research.
Laura Tsabet (lead practitioner in teaching and learning at the Bourne Academy in Bournemouth) concludes in the article: “When it comes down to it, it’s about the pupils. It’s what you know will work for your pupils”, which seems the most sensible and logical conclusion.
Or to keep it even simpler………