Questioning Observation

Course: World Literature
Period: 2

In this class, the lesson was to review previous learning in preparation for a test the next day. When talking with the teacher the day before, the lesson was intended to be a socratic seminar, however, immediately before the lesson, a pedagogical decision was made to have the discussions be made in small groups. The questioning from the instructor was more general than asking several smaller questions but instructed students to discuss broad, open ended questions as groups. Questions included What need does the hero fill to fit the needs to their time? What does Gilgamesh give to his society? Who are the three most likable heroes? Why/ Which are the most intelligent? Why? What role does technology play in how stories are told throughout the ages?

Observing teacher behavior during the group responses to the question was the most interesting. The teacher consistently talked with table groups of about six or fewer and did not choose to talk as frequently with larger table groups. When she talked with each group, she probed only a few new questions, but generally retold some of the stories that were discussed in class. Questions generally were open ended (about 80%). Some of the closed questions were implied to have support, for example, choosing three heroes implied some justification as to why  those heroes were chosen.

In general, since the questions mostly guided group discussion, there were no repeated answers, some groups received more attention than others, but overall the questions were dispersed around each student. The last section which asked students a more sophisticated answer was conducted as a group debrief where some students shared out. All of the students that shared to the class were from the large group, 1 one female and three males (this mimics the gender makeup of this school). In talking with the teacher about the purpose for her questions, she responded that they were strategic in eliciting specific knowledge from the students and were intended to recall important, more synthesis of information was required to  demonstrated understanding. To ensure complete understanding across all of the groups, if I were to implement this technique in my classroom, I would like to debrief all questions, not just some of them to create a collective understanding of the important concepts for a test.

While such broad questions may not be useful in a math classroom, I think the group questioning is a valuable tool that can be implemented. I could provide a group problem and then circulate the classroom to check for understanding. A creative tool for helping student understand gar fundamentals of a mathematical concept is to have them explain their ideas as they would to a younger student. This generally required significant understanding to accomplish. I enjoyed the use of this teachers questioning to prepare students for a test, I can use some of these group question strategies in my own classroom.

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2 thoughts on “Questioning Observation

  1. Riley, thank you for this post. I like the way that you are thinking about how to apply the techniques demonstrated in the classroom that you visited to your math classes.
    Pat

  2. Hi Riley,

    Thanks for your post. One thing that I noticed as interesting was the fact that the teacher didn’t spend as much time with larger groups. Why do you think this is? Do you think spending more time with the larger groups would change how the teacher is formally assessing classroom progress?
    Thanks for connecting how you would use this in a math classroom as well!

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