Helping students train their inner voices

6a010536aec25c970b01bb086cc9f3970dWhen it comes to asking questions in the classroom, the most important voice may be the one that you don’t hear. As McREL President and CEO Bryan Goodwin writes in the September issue of Educational Leadership, while we know teacher questioning is key to student learning, research suggests what matters more are the questions that students ask themselves.

Self-questioning, Goodwin explains, is something effective learners do naturally. For example, say you’re watching a science program on TV and you hear an astronomer explain that much of the starlight in the night sky comes from stars that may no longer exist. A little voice in your head might say, Wait, I don’t get that as you reach for the remote and rewind the program to listen again. This voice helps us connect what we’re learning with what we already know, look for the “big ideas” and connect them back to ourselves, and ask more questions that extend learning.

Fortunately, this kind of self-questioning is something teachers can train all students to do. Goodwin notes several research studies that support the effectiveness of such training—in one study, for example, a teacher named Alison King trained a class of 9th graders to ask themselves higher-order comparison-contrast questions, causal-relationship questions, and analysis questions while listening to history lectures. Comprehension tests showed that those students significantly outperformed their peers who did not receive the training.

Not only that, Goodwin points out, but such interventions don’t require much time to do and the effects appear to stick. In King’s study, the training took a mere 90 minutes and, when students listened to a subsequent lecture without any prompts about self-questioning, they still showed higher levels of comprehension.

Read the entire column here.

Posted by McREL International.

One Comment

  • Debra Keys says:

    I noticed with my students when they ask their own personal questions, that informs me of how much they know about the information and it also lets me know how much I need to review with them. In other words, it gauges the learning process.

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