I want to really listen for, value, and try to understand learners’ thoughts, experiences and insights, and then use them as a starting point and ongoing iterative counterpoint. I need to be curious about what sense a learner is making and how a learner understands something. This requires me to ask questions without steering a learner towards a pre-determined reponse. Too often the conversations in my classroom have revolved around students attempting to guess what is in my head. I don’t think I can learn anything about what my students think if I signal to them what I hope they will say. But I also don’t think that this means that I should withhold my own thoughts. Rather, it is just that I should not consider myself the final arbiter of what they should think.
It is my role to raise questions, to push learners to see where their answers hold up and where they do not hold up, to ask the right question at the right time in order to push a learner’s thinking. Some of the most useful questions that I use are: What do you notice? What puzzles you? Can you show me? Where do you see that? What do you mean? Why do you think that? Is that the same as what (someone else) thinks? How did you get that? What makes you say that?
Effective questioning enables learners to draw connections and deepen their understanding in ways that they may have never considered. When I show interest in their thinking, their understanding increases in the very process, and their confidence grows in their ability to develop their own ideas.