If you can learn how to implement question and answer sessions in your classroom, you will be able to test students’ comprehension of lessons easily while maintaining students’ focus and attention.
Question and answer sessions will let you know where your students are in terms of their understanding of lesson concepts. Sometimes, however, these sessions can go flat. Students can tune out, opt out, or play dumb as a way of getting out of participating.
As a teacher, trainer, or any other educator, you will know it is important to improve student question and answer sessions if they are not working. These Q&A sessions are an important part of classroom lessons.
First, let’s discuss…
6 Integral Ways Question and Answer Sessions Are Beneficial
- Testing students’ comprehension of course material and content.
- Helping you, the teacher, analyze and determine where students are in terms of their understanding of lesson concepts.
- Maintaining a well-behaved and focused learning environment.
- Actively engaging students in the learning process.
- Stimulating independent and critical thinking skills.
- Cultivating an interactive and social class atmosphere.
So how can you improve your question and answer sessions to get more out of your students and display your control?
Nine ways to improve student question and answer sessions:
1) Don’t always ask students who have their hands up
We all know that there are a handful of students who always raise their hands. Students know this as well and depend on these few students to do the work for the rest of them. So, start calling on those students who are obviously not paying attention. Eventually, they will have no choice but to sit up and pay attention because no student wants to look bad in front of others. Plus, if your students are avoiding paying attention to you, they probably have similar reactions to the frequent speakers in the class. Get someone who hasn’t offered input into the conversation, and others will take notice.
2) If your question stumps a student, don’t just move on to someone else
When we move onto another student, we not only let that student off the hook, but we also miss a chance to help that student, as well as others who may be confused, to develop new understanding. This doesn’t do anyone any favors in the long run. Maintain engagement with the same student but break down the question into simpler and simpler terms until he/she can provide you with an answer.
This is important if you want to stop students from opting out. If students realize that if they say they don’t know, you will move on, then they will start making that excuse just to get out of answering questions. So, to stop this, you must rephrase the question to help them understand. Your students need to learn that they must take part in the lesson and that participating can be a pain-free experience.
3) Always say the student’s name after you’ve asked the question
If you say a student’s name before you ask the question, the other students will relax and tune out before you’ve finished asking the question because they know they aren’t responsible for knowing the answer. So, the best way to make sure that everyone listens is to ask the question, pause, look around the room, and then name the student you want to answer. Using this method will keep everyone’s attention on the issue. If a student isn’t answering the question in front of the class, they should still be considering a solution.
4) Make questions a regular part of your lesson
Strong routines are an important part of classroom management. For tips and resources on incorporating routines into your classroom, check out this article.
When you are giving information to your class, remember that many young people have a short attention span. Furthermore, due to different learning styles, many of them simply can’t take in much information that is dished out to them purely through lecture. Because of this fact, you should frequently ask questions to gauge how much of the new information you’ve given them they’ve actually retained and can use.
Since all students learn differently, it is a wise idea to ask questions during your lectures, as well as other classroom activities. For instance, when reading a novel as a group, conducting an experiment, or showing digital presentations, you can still ask questions to measure student focus and comprehension.
5) Ask different types of questions to students
By enhancing the nature of your questions, you can effectively encourage higher-level thinking. Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How are the standard questions used in the classroom; however, if you want to determine or reinforce students’ critical thinking skills and creativity, develop different types of questions or situations. You may want to ask or compel students to:
- Develop a similar problem to the one just examined
- Critique a hypothetical situation and give a rationale for the answer
- Compare and contrast Issue A and Issue B
- Deconstruct the issue into smaller parts
There are some other excellent student behavior tips and teaching strategies over at Discovery Education, a great site for educators.
6) Encourage students to ask their questions
After presenting a scenario, prompt students to ask their questions and discover more details about the situation at hand. If no one speaks up, give an example of what students might ask, and how you would respond. Don’t stop at just one or two questions.
If you are working with a guest speaker, watching a video, or using another tool, you can also model asking questions that you expect might have been raised in the course of learning the new material. When the conversation has become stagnant, ask the class if there are any other questions before moving on to a new topic.
7) Don’t praise questions
This may sound a little counter-intuitive, but it’s important. Think about this. As a teacher, you’ve probably both said and heard the phrase “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” many times. Therefore, you should not evaluate the question that is presented to you by telling the student something like “That’s a great question!”.
If one student receives praise for the question she asks, and the next student doesn’t, the second person may become discouraged from participating. Praising some students, but not all, will reinforce the idea that there are good questions, and bad questions and you want to make sure that your students are asking their questions, whatever they may be. Remind the class that all questions are equal and valued neutral; neither good nor bad.
8) Tell students that question and answer sessions will help them prepare for tests
We’ve all heard it: “Will this be on the exam?” Q&A time is a great time to remind students that yes, they will be tested on the content that you are teaching. When students become lax in participating, remind them that this is one way they can study for an upcoming exam.
By asking questions, they get to personalize their need to study based on the gaps that they have identified in their knowledge. As well, the more they pay attention and partake in class, the less time that will be required for studying. Even if a student is primarily engaged because they want a good grade, this makes the kind of thought and reflection that goes into asking questions a win-win situation.
9) Use question and answer sessions as a way for students to earn bonus marks
If you want to get students focusing on your lectures and contributing to class discussions, offer bonus marks for participation. For instance, for every question that a student answers correctly, he/she will receive an additional 1% on the mid-term exam. If you use this method, make sure all students are given the opportunity to answer the questions, choose students randomly, and offer these sessions on a regular basis.
Summing it up!
By using these nine techniques in your next question and answer session, you are bound to take your class off guard, and see an improvement in your students’ attentiveness. Not only will these methods help your students pay greater attention, but they will also improve your students’ performance levels. The ability to gauge learning and comprehension levels in your classroom will increase.
More than likely you will be asked about the techniques you use as a teacher for question and answer sessions in the teacher job interview.
Now it is your turn. What methods have you tried in the classroom to maintain students’ attention and focus? What worked and what didn’t?
Comment below or send Candace an email.