Asking questions is a very important skill not only in communication but also in teaching and learning. Socrates believed that a good teacher must know how to uncover students’ prior knowledge in order to help them reach new levels of thinking. Well-crafted questions stimulate the recall of prior knowledge, promote comprehension, and build better thinking skills while poorly-constructed ones hinder stundents’ willingness to pay attention to the lesson. So, what kinds of questions should teachers ask?
Wilson (2016) proposed five types of questions in which different kinds of thinking and knowledge are targeted.
The answers can be obviously found in the text/recording and are often either right or wrong.
E.g.: What did the boy buy at the shop?
The answers are not directly stated in the text/recording but require justification. Students have to find reasons/evidences and sometimes make inferences.
E.g.: According to the text, what may be the reason for his death?
The correctness of the answers is based on logical projections, contextual, or arrived at through basic knowledge, conjecture, inference, projection, intuition, or imagination. This type of questions requires students to analyze, synthesize, or evaluate a knowledge base and then project or predict different outcomes.
E.g.: What would happen if he didn’t come home?
This type of questions requires sophisticated cognitive and/or emotional judgment.
E.g.: What are the similarities and differences between the two projects?
Any combination of the above.
Guidelines for teachers:
- Define the level of students’ language and thinking ability in order to plan questions.
- Ask simple and clear questions. Avoid vague and ambiguous questions.
- Give students time to think and ask follow-up questions.
- Mix different types of questions.