Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Elevating Questioning and Discussion Techniques in the Danielson Framework

When was the last time you heard a teacher utter, “Are there any questions?”  at the end of a instructional block or class period?  The dead silence that overwhelmingly results from this anti-question speaks volumes about the lack of meaningful questioning in K-12 classrooms.  One of the critical categories under Instruction in the Danielson Framework for Teaching addresses Questioning and Discussion Techniques and specifically students generating higher-order questions.

How do you go about raising the standard for student questioning in the classroom? Several questioning strategies exist that can easily blend into the rhythm of instruction of any teacher’s dominant teaching methodology ranging from whole group didactic instruction to small group Socratic Dialog. Some of these strategies include:

This questioning strategy represents a shift from making statements to starting to wonder and ask questions. The participants make points as in a normal discussion, but the use of statements is forbidden.
1. Provide a trigger (such as a poem, topic or theme). The trigger might be a problem
to be solved, a provocative question or statement, some text or a key word, a video clip,
a multimedia presentation, or a website to be analyzed or discussed.
2 Have students participate in a discussion that only contains questions. Have
participants yell “Statement” or make a sound if anyone makes a statement rather than asking a question
3. Open-ended questions are preferred to closed questions. “What?”, “Why?” “How?” rather than “Is it true that...?”
4. Try to ask questions about feeling as well as facts, try to ask simple knowledge
questions as well as sophisticated questions.
5. A question does not have to be directly related to the previous question.

Bloom’s Taxonomy-in Action:
This questioning strategy uses Bloom’s Taxonomy as the basis for students to generate questions at the higher levels of cognition.
1. Spend time introducing questions associated with each of the Bloom’s Taxonomy
Levels in class.
2. Designate each day of the week to a specific Bloom Level (e.g., understanding, analyzing, creating).
3. Have students as well as the teacher only ask questions at the selected Bloom Level during the entire class period. If someone accidentally asks a different question, have them rephrase their question to match the Bloom Level.

Thesis Statements:
This questioning strategy uses collaboration to increase the quality and quantity of student-generated questions.
1. As part of the writing process, have students write down a thesis statement on the
classroom interactive white board, white board, or chalkboard.
2. Next, have students take their interactive white board markers and generate two
questions relating to the thesis statement. If no interactive white board exists, then use
sticky notes. The questions can include any question type (e.g., clarifying, probing,
hypothesizing), but must relate directly to the thesis statement.

For example, if the thesis statement stated, "The $700 billion bail-out of Wall Street by Congress and the President was an ill-conceived plan to solve the major economic crisis of 2008." then possible questions might be, "What if the government had no other choice?", "To what extent will this plan help the everyday citizen living on Main Street?", and "What accountability measures are in place to ensure that the $700 billion loan is repaid?"

Getting students to generate well-crafted questions routinely does not happen overnight. For some students, their kindergarten experience was the last venue where they felt safe and supportive to generate original questions. The strategies mentioned above provide a solid foundation to get students engaged in the learning process by articulating authentic and meaningful questions at the highest levels of the Danielson Framework for Teaching Rubic.