As I reflect upon my student teaching experiences, one of my key takeaways is that of the importance of formulating questions as a part of our routine lesson planning. In our lesson planning preparation we begin by developing our learning objectives and mapping these objectives to professional standards. Next, we determine the assessments, both formative and summative, we will use in order to gather evidence of student learning. Finally, we develop a learning plan or a series of experiences that will facilitate student learning through differentiated means of instruction as they progress toward mastery of the identified objectives and standards. How exactly we differentiate instruction varies based on our students, the set objectives, and the learning experience itself.
One example of how we differentiate instruction for our students is through our scaffolded implementation and delivery of purposeful, engaging, and cognitively demanding questions. Over the course of my student teaching placement, my cooperating teacher monitored and recorded my utilization of questioning as a means of differentiated instruction. We worked together to formulate purposeful questions during the lesson planning stage, prior to implementation. In addition, we utilized Bloom’s Taxonomy (see figure below) to ensure that questions were sequenced in a way that not only ensured an engaging progression of learning, but more importantly ensured that we set the bar for cognitively demanding teaching and learning.
According to the University of Waterloo, there are six categories of question types we ask of our students as educators. We ask questions in order to: capture student attention, build curiosity, reinforce key ideas, and motivate ongoing learning (University of Waterloo). The types of questions we ask can be directly connected to each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
For example, knowledge-level questions ask students to simply remember content. Question stems include: Who, What, Where, When, How. Next, comprehension-level questions challenge students to develop an understanding of the content but do not yet reach the level of application. Analysis-level questions ask students to use evidence to support a claim, before making a prediction which is encompassed at the synthesis-level of questioning. Our most cognitively demanding questions step from questions that ask students to evaluate and creating meaningful connections between what they have learned and the world around them, while inevitably developing new questions of their own.
Check out the figure below from The Teaching Center which maps question wording and examples to each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The figures appear’s in an article published by The Teaching Center titled: Asking Questions to Improve Learning.
In addition, to the figure the Teaching Center offers strategies for both questioning and responding. One strategy states: “When planning questions, keep in mind your course goals. For example, do you want students to master core concepts? To develop their critical thinking skills? The questions you ask should help them practice these skills, as well as communicate to them the facts, ideas, and ways of thinking that are important to their learning in your course” (The Teaching Center). I highlight this strategy as I am now continually reminded of the importance of pre-planning not only our goals and objectives, but the questions we will ask to facilitate students achievement of these objectives.
As I continue to reflect upon my student teaching experiences, I am grateful for these lessons which I have learned through the mentor-ship of outstanding educators. As the school year nears its end, what reflections and lessons would you share with a first-year teacher? Join our conversation in the comments section below!