Elizabeth Willis Barrett………..October 31, 2013
I’ve been in a lot of classes in my life. Classes where questions were asked and answers were given. Not usually by me, I’m afraid. Although, I did sit right in front in my Spanish classes with my friend Jeanine and we correctly answered whatever Professora Jarvis could throw out. Boy, was I smart in Spanish. Unfortunately that smartness was only on paper and NOT in my Spanish speaking ability. After all my classes and answering, I still don’t think I can correctly ask, “How are you?” in Spanish.
I should have practiced speaking along with my studying and reading but that is another story for another post.
In this post, I would like to address the skill of question asking. I believe there are several “don’ts” when it comes to asking questions in a classroom setting.
- Don’t catch someone off guard. I was sitting in a very large Church class once and the teacher asked a question and then called on me to answer it. Did he think I was actually listening? Well, I wasn’t. I was day dreaming as I usually do when my brain isn’t significantly needed somewhere else. That was very embarrassing. I couldn’t answer his question and looked like a spiritual light-weight, which I may be, but I didn’t need everyone else to know it. There would have been many who could have volunteered great responses if he had asked for a raise of hands from those who were really engaged in his message. “To teach” should not also mean “to embarrass.”
- Don’t allow answers and questions to go unheard. When someone is giving an answer, ask the person to stand up and answer loudly enough for the whole audience to hear. It is frustrating when the answerer and the teacher carry on a conversation that can be heard by only a few. Perhaps the answer could be repeated by the instructor. The same could be said for those who have a question. They should stand up and ask it loudly or the instructor should repeat it.
- Don’t belittle a given answer. It takes courage to raise one’s hand and give a response. Don’t bludgeon someone’s words with an eye-roll or a snicker or a put-down.
- Don’t ignore a given answer. Again, the answerer had to think a little and be brave enough to answer, especially if the group is large. Say something. “Thank you for that answer.” “I can see why you would think that.” “What great insight.” Give the person and those listening reason to throw their waving arms into the discussion. If their answer is going to be ignored, why try next time?
- Don’t ask a question that has an answer so obvious that the students should feel stupid vocalizing it. I can’t think of an example at this moment but I’m sure one will come up soon.
- And finally, don’t expect the answerer to read your mind and answer with the words you’ve already pre-chosen. Your lesson perhaps had that person thinking in another direction. Praise his answer and continue to ask for more discussion on the subject until you finally get what you’re looking for. But to say, “that’s not the answer I wanted,” makes everyone try to give your answer instead of their own and one that is often just as valid.
I’m sure there’re more “don’ts” but, for now, that’s it. Any questions?