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Asking Better Questions: 5 More Ways to Improve Classroom Discussions

Posted by Marygrove MAT on May 27, 2014 5:05:00 AM

classroom_discussion-Like we said in our last post, skilled teachers have the ability to make facilitating a classroom discussion look effortless. But as most of you know, facilitating a lively, but controlled classroom discussion is truly an art form.

In their book Discussion in Small Groups, David Potter and Martin Andersenoffer offer some helpful tips that should not only help you become a better facilitator, but teach you to ask thought-provoking questions.

Asking Better Questions: 5 More Ways to Improve Classroom Discussions

To prevent a few from monopolizing the discussion

  • “Excuse me, Janet. Before you continue, may I ask if anyone has a comment on the point you just made?”
  • “May we hear now from some who haven’t expressed an opinion?”
  • “Jim, since we have only a few minutes left, could you summarize your remarks so we may hear what the others thing?”

To suggest the need for closing the discussion

  • “May we have two or three final comments before we close?”
  • “According to my watch, we’re scheduled to finish discussion in about five minutes. Are there any final comments?”

To indicate the need for procedural decisions

  • “In view of the limited time we have, may we decide now on the phases of the topic we should try to consider before we leave today?”
  • “How much more time do you think we should spend on this point?”

To focus attention on needed follow-up

  • “Who will accept responsibility for carrying out the action we’ve decided on?”
  • “When should we continue this conversation?”
  • May, will you take responsibility for making the opening statement in our next meeting?”

To ventilate feelings

  • “Joe, I know you have some strong feelings about this—will you share them with us?”
  • “Could some feelings be expressed on the decision so we know the extent of our commitment?”

Although questioning can be an effective tool in discussion, you should always be attentive to the questions you are asking. It is unwise, for example, ask for information that the respondent does not have, or ask questions that are obviously leading, misleading, or inaccurate.

Photo credit: marsmet552 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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