Friday, May 3, 2013

Questioning Techniques

Today I attended SUM 2013.  I was very excited to hear Dan Meyer speak.  I've mentioned him in previous blog posts.  We have tried to model his teachings, but it is not an easy task!  It was great to hear him today and have him take us through a three act math activity, modelling to us what a teacher's role is.   He has a very good way of questioning so that everyone feels like they CAN ask a question and that every question is valid.    He shows a problem/situation/activity and then asks for "the FIRST question that you have".   He typed out any question a person asked and never made you feel like it wasn't good enough.  

Fast forward to the last keynote speaker.  This person would ask for questions, but if they weren't what she wanted she responded in a way that I can only describe as somewhat rude.  There were two questions in particular that I didn't like how she responded.  One wasn't along the lines of what she asked, but instead of thanking the person for taking a risk, she more or less shrugged it off and asked for a question "with words".   Another time she was asking what questions could be developed from a picture she was showing, and with one of the responses, she turned her back to the person and commented "I don't think students would find that interesting."    Really?   If I did that in my classroom with my students I would NEVER have a student risk taking!   After the second "snub" I basically tuned her out.  I didn't find her respectful of her audience. 

The two differences between the keynote speakers really opened my eyes to how a teacher can turn on or off students in a heartbeat!   We have to be very careful how we respond to student's questions and comments.  We need to encourage thinking, and thank students when they do take a risk, even if they aren't necessarily on the right path.  I definitely want to model Dan Meyer's technique, and avoid at all times, the second keynote speaker's technique!  


  1. It amazes me the negative impact we can have without even realizing it. I am sure that the second speaker had no idea how she made her audience feel. I was present at both speakers, but there was no way that I was going to contribute or participate in the afternoon session. At one point I was actually hiding from the presenters line of sight! As a teacher I will continue to try and build a climate where students are comfortable enough to contribute, but feel that their contributions are valuable.

  2. Isn't it interesting, I am reading this a year after the SUM conference, and I can still feel the the discomfort I had in that session you are describing. I agree that Meyer was inclusive to all who attended, and therefore, I learned. I didn't feel smart enough for the last presenter, and so I tuned out. Classic case of the message getting lost in the medium.