Read About Best Practices in Effective Listening and Questioning Techniques
Effective listening and questioning techniques are two of the most powerful skills coaches use to help educators obtain knowledge, deepen understanding, refine skills, reflect on instructional practices, and learn how to successfully communicate with students and colleagues. In this module, coaches explore the fundamental steps necessary in planning for, cultivating, monitoring, and maintaining the ongoing cognitive growth and verbal interactions of teachers.
Administrators, teachers, students, parents, and fellow coaches rely on you because of your position in the learning community. For this reason, you must be well versed in the functions, features, and purposes of communication and able to model good communication skills when working within and across diverse groups. In addition, professional conversations are a necessary tool to assist teachers in mediating their own learning processes and, in turn, mediating the learning processes of their students.
Teachers know they must link instruction to prior knowledge and remain mindful of how well students comprehend the messages and information transmitted. The same holds true for coaches. In order to facilitate understanding during shared professional development discussions, coaches must mesh the chosen topics with teachers classroom experiences and be keenly aware of confusions and difficulties teachers may have with the conversation at hand.
Communication is the process by which we share and receive information and ideas. According to Marie Clay, the components of communication theory are:
In the art of effective communication, the speaker and listener have specific, equally significant roles:
(Adapted from: Clay, M.M. By Different Paths to Common Outcomes. York, Maine: Stenhouse, 1998.)
Effective questioning involves two important elements:
Whether coaches are crafting questions for the teachers with whom they work or are helping teachers craft questions for their students, its important to anticipate potential responses to the questions (Morgan & Saxton). In other words, when considering the questioning technique as a learning device, educators must be deliberate, intentional, and thoughtful about both the questions and the answers.
Questioners must also give participants time to think before answering. According to research (Morgan & Saxton), wait time or think time after posing questions yields significant results:
Questioning is one way to ensure that teachers engage during professional development activities, think more critically, and become more reflective. It is also a way to model instructional practices to utilize with students. According to Morgan and Saxton, coaches who question effectively wait patiently for answers and then send the ball back so that learning is perceived as a dialogue in which everyones thoughts, feelings, and actions contribute to individual and collective understanding. In turn, teachers who effectively respond to coaches questions actively listen, concentrate on their thinking process, and take note of their own and others answers (Morgan and Saxton).
Questioning must never be the result of thinking What type of question should I ask? Instead, ask yourself What do I need the question to do? (Morgan & Saxton) The ultimate goal of effective questioning is to deepen understanding. In addition, participants thoughtful answers to your carefully crafted questions should have an immediate and direct impact on future teaching decisions.
Questions fall into many categories, and a working knowledge of available question models can result in improved communication with colleagues by allowing you to match the purpose to the situation.
Blooms Taxonomy supports instructional objectives, strategies, and interactions by strengthening logical thinking processes, including questions that:
Traditionally used by teachers in the classroom, the levels of questioning in Blooms Taxonomy are equally effective when working with educators (Morgan and Saxton).
Another model of questioning includes three distinct types of inquiry. The question classifications may be used by coaches to help establish rules and routines for professional development sessions, increase and build upon participants existing professional knowledge, and help teachers think critically about their current classroom practices. The different kinds of questions that a coach might use in her conversations with teachers are shown in the chart below.
Adapted from: Morgan, N. & Saxton, J. Asking Better Questions: Models, Techniques and Classroom Activities for Engaging Students in Learning.
The Socratic Method
The Socratic Method is an exploratory model of inquiry that promotes independent critical thinking skills. Participants work together to investigate a topic in order to find logical answers to challenging questions, requiring ongoing professional dialogue. In contrast to lecturing, this classic approach provides feedback, which allows the coach to monitor participants understanding during the teaching and learning process.
Steps to Socratic Questioning