'The importance of reflecting on the types of questions that we ask in PE'
It has been a couple of weeks since the Feedback for Effective Thinking conference was held at our school in Nanjing, but the impact of the learning is still very present among the teachers here on staff. A multitude of different sessions were held throughout the 3 days, but what captured me the most was a session led by Dylan William on the the importance of asking the right questions. The session really made me really reflect on the types of questions that I ask in PE and how I need to better plan the questions that I come up with in my units.
According to William, teachers ask 5 different types of questions. These questions can be categorized in any one of the following groups.
Basic review questions about what has been done in a unit or a prior class.
Routines, rules, expectations etc.
Very authentic questions in which the teachers and students do not know the answers to. They must work together at finding them out. Only 3% of the time are questions like this asked in class.
Types of questions that build upon understanding of important concepts and skills.
Very important questions that help to get students reflecting on where they are at in a unit and what they need to work on.
What surprised me the most was the fact that 45% of the questions that we ask are procedural in nature. Examples of procedural questions might be, "What is it that I asked you to do in this game?", "What is it that we are suppose to do when entering the gym?", "Do you have your pencils ready?" What Dylan suggests is that instead of asking procedural questions, we should try to use statements more instead as it cuts down on the processing time needed by students. An example of a statement might be "I need you to have your pencils ready" or "Turn to a partner and tell them what needs to be done when we enter the gym".
William pointed out that on average teachers ask 80 questions a class and more thought needs to be put into the types of questions that we ask. As well, our average wait time when asking a question must be extended to allow students time to think and respond. If a student doesn't know the answer, we must not just move on to another student. We need to employ strategies that keep all students engaged in the important discussions that we have in our PE classes. Dylan refers to this as a 'No Opt Out' strategy meaning that we never allow students off the hook when asking questions. This can be done in a number of ways that I will share over the upcoming weeks as I am working hard to refine and improve the way I question my students.
When looking at the above description of the different types of questions that we ask, Dylan urges that we ask more generative, constructive, and facilitative questions and doing so requires us to change habitual routines that are embedded within our teaching practice.
A Great Suggestion by Dylan William
One of the ways that we can become more aware of the questions that we ask our students is to ask a colleague to come in and observe us teach. Get them to record the questions that we ask and how we get our students to answer these questions. Have them actually time how long we give our students to answer these questions. I think we will all be surprised at how little time we actually allow our students to answer our questions. By allowing a fellow teacher to come in record our questions and response time, we are providing ourselves with some powerful information to help move not only our teaching forward, but also the learning of our students.