Monthly Archives: September 2013

Letting Go and Letting the Questions Flow

Q's pic 2

I am sure there are no arguments that the effective use of questioning and genuine classroom discussion is one of the keys to maximising learning.  In recent years many of my students interactions (including questions and discussions) have moved online……………. and wholly virtual cow, this is a game changer!

The last couple of years I have been flipping a number of my classes with the use of online video.  This has allowed time in the classroom to be increasingly student centred and to be all about the learning activities that work best when we are as a group.   This has resulted in the shift online for both the independent work (mostly at home) and for some of the collaborative work that can flow in/out of the classroom.  Sitting alongside these tasks is our questions and discussions, which we have trialled in a variety of formats – learning management systems, quiz tools, blogs, Google forms and message boards.

I see these online questions and discussions mostly slotting into a few main categories (See detailed reflection of my current state of affairs HERE):

1. Checking student progress – What has been finished? What were the key words in your summary?  What were the concepts that you have summarised?

2. Student ‘help’ questions – What don’t you understand?  What do you need help with? What do you want me to cover in class?

3. Formative assessment – Question’s to test understanding of the concept?

4. Student Inquiry – Genuine student questions related to the concept. What does this make you wonder?  Why does this occur? What areas interest you?

The last category (Student Inquiry) is really where I want to shake things up a little.  After all, when we learn Science, what we are really talking about is the process of students understanding the amazing world around them.  With this in mind, it means that the ‘what does this make you wonder’ questions are what we need to hit to truly cognitively engage students in Science.

I believe there are some great benefits to the other types of questions and strategies I am using in my class.  However, I am wary that with these alone it could lead to a more ‘factory like’ content delivery schedule and I could miss some of this essential engagement and inquiry.  I also wonder if my previous attempts to curate these types of student inquiry questions on our blog/message boards have actually got in the way of the natural flow of this type of questioning – too much control!

Some questions for me:

  • As a science teacher how can I foster natural inquiry and discussion about Science?
  • Could this be another area in the student centered classroom where I need to step back and release responsibility?  Am I able to let the questions flow naturally?
  • Where in the learning cycle would be the best place to encourage this?
  • How can I facilitate this so that it will be intuitive for students to ask and answer?

As I step back and decide where to next, I have a few guiding thoughts:

  1. Don’t start with the tool – I want to be really clear about my needs before I choose and settle into a tool.  Don’t get me wrong, I still intend to get really excited by the fantastic tools out there.   Currently I am looking forward to getting on Verso to enable the setup of the inquiry.  There are also some great options for putting quizzes alongside your videos – Google forms (now with embedded video), Sophia, Camtasia and TED Ed.
  2. Go for something intuitive – It needs to be intuitive for students.   It can’t be too many clicks away or too hard to post.  Having notifications could also be beneficial to hook students back into the discussion.   For many the discussion formats of Facebook, Verso, Edmodo , Schoology and Ask 3 (if an iPad school) are all the sort of online discussions that seem intuitive for students.
  3. Plan for Inquiry – Plan opportunities and activities that encourage students to inquire.  Plan activities that scaffold the skills to ask and answer questions.  Consider the timing/position of these discussions in the learning cycle.

I would love to hear from other educators about their approaches in using ICT to create questions and discussions that promote inquiry.