The T&L CPD for our first day back in January this year was focused on encouraging students to ask more questions. This builds on our whole school, year long focus of: ‘Active, engaged, reflective learners’. If students are generating questions then they are actively engaged and reflecting. The act of creating a question also ensures that students are directing their own learning and working to make meaning for themselves.
We began by asking ourselves how our classroom environments would need to change if we wanted to swing away from the norm of the teacher asking the majority of the questions – reputedly some 200-300 a day. Would we have to alter the power balance in the classroom if we wanted more students to ask more questions? Would we also have to prove to students that we valued their questions as much as their answers? Did our classrooms have environments in which many questions of many types could be freely asked?
The first activity in the session was based on an image which can be found in ‘The Guardian’ column – ‘That’s me in the picture’. The photograph is of Ros Sare passing by the poll tax protest in London. The activity was simply that staff working in groups should write down all the questions that came into their minds while looking at the picture. The rules were simple: Write the questions down exactly as they were stated and in the order in which they were stated; there should be no discussion and any statements made should be transformed into questons. The activity provided a concrete strategy which staff could use. Its usefulness? It might help to create a safe question asking space. It might help to introduce students to the idea of them asking more questions.
The activity is actually the first part of the ‘Question Formulation Technique’ as written about by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana in their book ‘Make Just One Change’. Staff were introduced to the next stages of this technique to see if they would think of using it in their own classrooms. The second stage – working with open and closed questions – was highlighted as an opportunity to encourage students to understand that questions come in different forms and are of different types.
Having worked through the idea that students would need a certain environment in which to ask questions, we looked at the need to provide students with support to frame questions of different types and levels. The question matrix work done by @JohnSayers and @Mr_Haines, as promoted on Teachertoolkit, was provided as a possible strategy. Staff worked first with examples and then worked together to see if the question matrix could work for them in their specialisms using the resources they brought with them – some images, some texts.
The Technology Department were already redesigning the grid to suit their particular situation as the session ended.