Student-Generated Questions In The Formative Classroom

In the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway? improve artists often play a game called “Questions only.” One artist starts with a question to another artist who has to respond to a question with a question. This question-on-question-on-question can go on for an extended period of time with comedic results. 

I think formative classrooms should develop such questioning skills, and the true leaders in the questioning should be the students. After all, they are in the class to learn, and inquiries often lead to great learning experiences. Of course, students need to be taught how to ask questions. In the book Questioning for Formative Feedback: Meaningful Dialogue to Improve Learning, author Jackie Acree Walsh describes four types of student-generated questions that can be used in classrooms to enhance learning (pp.129-134):

  1. Emerging questions. In classrooms where students are developing their questioning abilities, emerging questions come up automatically during a lesson. Such questions are authentic in their nature and spur students to further learning.   
  2. Self-questions. Students use self-questions to examine their own thinking. They are powerful learning tools in the classroom. 
  3. Academic questions. Similar to emerging questions, academic questions come up automatically during a lesson, and they are content specific. They carry traits of self-questions in that they help students clarify their own thinking. They also carry students deeper into content. 
  4. Dialogic questions. When students engage in questioning responses of their classmates in order to further understand responses, they are engaging in dialogic questioning. Such questions provide deep feedback about thinking processes and the development of understanding. These questions are powerful tools in the formative classroom. 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways you can encourage student questions. You and your students will be glad you did!

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