The Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was known for his method of questioning his students and other individuals to lead them to revelation. Questioning was integral to Socrates’ teaching philosophy, two thousand years later it remains an important instructional strategy for teachers. According to Larson and Keiper, teaching is a teacher centered strategy that is used to encourage student learning. The use of questions usually falls in three main categories: 1) as part of instruction, 2) as part of classroom management, and 3) as part of assessment (Larson and Keiper, 134).
Socrates didn’t develop his style of questioning overnight, it took planning and practice. Teachers must also think about their questions and plan them. Most times questions do not come naturally, particularly those questions that lead students beyond recalling factual information. To plan questions teachers can create a list of questions, perhaps with the help of Bloom’s Taxonomy chart, which address specific objectives. Questions should also be a mix of types that interact with student comprehension, knowledge, and application. It is important to remember that simply asking more questions or asking higher level questions will not, on their own, lead to student learning. Instead, planning questions provide structure for the lesson and increases the likelihood that questions will lead to student understanding.
One of the most important factors to think about during questioning is how to involve students. Larson and Keiper provide a few suggestions for questioning. First, make sure you provide proper wait time after asking a question to give students an opportunity to formulate answers and to respond. For lower level questions wait time will probably be shorter than for the wait time teachers provide for more complex, higher level questions. Second, teachers should try not to call on students who are only willing to participate. One solution to this might be to place student names in a bag and to pull out names individually and as for responses. There may be problems with this as there will be students who might be unwilling to participate. The third suggestion addresses this problem; instead of calling on students directly, teachers could pose questions and then have students answer the questions in pairs or small groups. Another strategy could be to have students work on questions electronically or structure a web-based search around inquiry into a particular question.
Questioning is a tool teachers learn over time, it is not innate. It requires planning, knowledge of who your students are, and consideration of the goals of the lesson. As Socrates’ life demonstrated, questioning, when applied effectively, can have deep impact upon our students lives.
Digital Technology in the Classroom
As a teacher, Socrates would have undoubtedly been excited about the potential of digital technology in the classroom. In my student internship/placement in a nearby high school, I’ve been able to see a number of digital technologies applied within the classroom setting. The Smart Board at the front of the room is perhaps the most obvious piece of technology in my classroom. The Smart Board is mainly used to project slide shows that accompany lecture. So far in my placement I have not observed students ever interacting with the Smart Board in any way. From my experience going into other classrooms, I have also not observed students doing work on the Smart Board. Though, I understand from my students that they use the Smart Board in their math classes. Another obvious piece of technology in the room is the Elmo projector on the teacher’s desk. Again, within the month I’ve been at school I have actually never seen the Elmo used.
There are three main non-physical technologies used in the classroom. First is Kahoot, an online and interactive quiz application in which students can log in using their laptops or their phones. My teacher uses Kahoot activities to review before almost every quiz and test. Rather than being work on paper, students generally enjoy Kahoot and seem to stay engaged in the process. Second is Power School, which is a technology that benefits administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Power School allows my teacher to insert grades online; students and parents can log in on Power School and actually see their grades and missing assignments. Finally, my teacher uses Google Classroom that is really easy for students to access. Most of their warm-ups and classroom activities are posted on Google Classroom before class so they can use and access them during class. After lecture my teacher posts power point slides and lecture notes which can be accessed by all students for review or by students who, for whatever reason, missed class.
In my future classroom I can hope to use all of these technologies to enhance instruction, to make accommodations, and to improve student engagement. I think that students not using or interacting with the Smart Board or the Elmo projector are missed opportunities for engagement. With this years’ SOL tests incorporating drag and drop questions, the Smart Board can possibly provide students with experience working with similar types of question formats. I also plan to use Kahoot, Google Classroom, and Power School (if my school district is a subscriber) in similar ways to my teacher. If possible, I would also like to use Google Forms as a way to replace paper based quizzes. Google Forms can also give students automatic feedback and sends results directly to instructors. For students who are distracted by computers paper copies can easily be provided. Technologies like these can be used on an almost daily basis which can enhance engagement and understanding, but can also make my job as a teacher easier.