I was reading Alber’s (2013) 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students and I began to think about how discourse emerges behind asking essential questions in the classroom. Alber (2013) suggests that teachers ask the following types of questions:
- What do you think?
- Why do you think that?
- How do you know this?
- Can you tell me more?
- What questions do you still have?
When applying the Socratic Method, pace becomes important. The suggested question types provided above avoid the easier “yes/no” questions that allow for lower order thinking, but what happens when students 1) are not used to answering essential questions (or used to the teacher simply giving the answer), 2) lack the content knowledge to adequately address such questions, or 3) lack the language skills – in the case of English language learners – to provide an adequate response. Alber (2013) suggests a type of think, pair, share activity to allow for deeper group discussions, but this too affects the overall pace of classroom discourse and an interruption of the Socratic Method.
(Language) Educator Challenge: Record yourself during a class and analyze the way you form questions and how your students reply. For example, how do you lead up to any one of the five questions above? Are there lower-thinking questions that occur first, or are you able to jump right to these questions in order to generate thought-provoking discussion? Conduct a discourse analysis to see how you present questions in a way that maintains good pacing and thought-provoking discussions around big ideas.