The Energetic Benefits of Using Open Questions
Open questions have the following characteristics:- They ask the student to think and reflect on what's important to them.
- They will give you opinions and feelings.
- They responsibility for the conversation is shared with the student.
All of the above affect the energy in the room. Some questions will raise the energy, i.e. the students' willingness to give answers and share what they are thinking and feeling. Type of Question and their effects on the students' level of energy: Open Increases, most of allHalf-open (framed) Increases somewhatMulti choice Moderately increasingYes/no Moderately decreasingLeading questions DecreasesStatement Decreases, most of allHandover Could go either wayHere are examples of different types of teacher questions OpenWhat is your favourite _____? What did you learn from the homework? Half-open (framed)What are three examples of _____ Where might I find a _____ Multiple choiceWhich kind of _____ do you prefer: X, Y or Z? When was the end of (historical event): 1987, 1914, 2014? Yes/noDo you like _____ ? Is 1+2 = 2? Leading questions Since you have a _____ , you like _____ , don't you? If you can ____, you need a _____? Statement _____ is good for your health. The President of XXX was born in YYYY? Handover question What more would you like to know about _____ ? What's the next thing we shall take up in this discussion? The students had found answers to the square root of target numbers such as 81, 100, 9000 and similar numbers. They had also used calculators to look up the square root of 80, 1000, 9.5 and similar integers and decimals. So far, so good.
Now they were looking for the square root of -81, -100 and -9000. Their calculators were displaying the word ERROR. So were the looks on their faces. The teacher wanted the students minds to be fully open and ready fior what was to come next. For many students, this topic is a watershed moment. Success could move them towards being mathematicians; failure could stop them on their journey.In essence the conversations with the students, one-to-one and in small groups, went like this. Notice that most of the teacher's questions start with "What...", some are closed questions, others are leading... T = Teacher S = Student T What’s the problem? S (Looking at their calculator they said) It says ‘ERROR’ T So what’s the problem? S We can’t answer the question. T What are you looking for? S A number that gives us -81 when multiplied by itself. T How will you know when you have the right answer? S When it doesn’t say “ERROR” T What’s special about ‘square root’? S It’s what you need to answer the question. T You mean ‘the number that when multiplied by itself will give the target number’? S Yeah T What’s the target number? S Eighty-one T Is it? S No, it’s minus eight-one. T And what have you tried? S Nine T And what have you not tried yet? S Ah. Minus nine T And what do you get when you try minus nine multiplied by minus nine. S Eighty-one T And... S Is that it then? T What’s the target number? S Eighty-one T Is it? S No, it’s minus eight-one. S So minus nine isn't the answer T No S So what is? Can't you tell us? T Not yet. What else have you tried? S Nine, and minus nine T And what have you not tried yet? S Decimals! T And what do you get when you try a decimal? S Like nine point zero? T Give it a try. What do you get? S Eighty-one. But not minus eighty-one. T So what have you not tried yet? S Can't you just tell us? T Yes, but that would be stealing the learning from you! S We have tried everything!!! T You have tried whole numbers and real decimals. So what kind of number do you need? S We need something else! T Are you ready to hear about a different kind of number? S There's a DIFFERENT kind of number??? T Are you ready to hear about a different kind of number? S Yes. T Then I am ready to tell you about … Teach even more through empowering dialogue
Tune up your teaching questions to include coaching questions.Steer the energy in the room , through your choice of questions.Speed up your journey into the learning by asking better questions.Preparation for asking open questions Open questions are powerful, really powerful. They encourage students to give voice to what’s really going on for them, in the moment. You will be accessing their thought processes, making their thoughts more visible, revealing their values, dreams and fears. It’s good to be ready for what comes out when you open this potential Pandora’s Box.FIRST - I encourage you to clean up your own inner dialogue, and use positive language. Learn about your students inner dialogue. Use humour to establish a deeper connection with your students. Three Benefits of Using Open Questions - They ask the student to think and reflect on what's important to them.
- They reveal the student's opinions and feelings.
- The student takes on more responsibility for the quality and depth of the conversation.
Open questions have the following characteristics - They cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no".
- There is seldom a correct answer, all answers are to some degree correct.
- They begin with the word "What..."
Twelve Classroom Uses of "Open” Questions" 1. Assess learning. 2. Help a student to clarify a vague comment. 3. Prompt students to explore attitudes, values, or feelings (when appropriate). 4. Prompt students to see a concept from another perspective. 5. Ask a student to refine a statement or idea. 6. Prompt students to support their assertions and interpretations. 7. Direct students to respond to one another. 8. Prompt students to investigate a thought process. 9. Ask students to predict possible outcomes. 10. Prompt students to connect and organize information. 11. Ask students to apply a principle or formula. 12. Ask students to illustrate a concept with an example. GROW Questions: When to use them?
- You are not informing or instructing the students in what to do or how to do it.
- You do want students to think about what they are doing,
- You do want students to think about why are they doing what they are doing.
Sample Grow Questions - Cheat Sheet You can never have too many of these open questions, especially when you are a novice. Use these words on this cheat sheet. I did! With practice, you will not need the cheat sheet as much, and after a while, you will not need it at all. TopicWhat would you like to focus on today? What is on your mind? What has happened since last time we met? What is the most important of these different issues? What have you learnt since our last discussion? GoalsSpecifically, what do you want to achieve? If you could have one wish granted, what would you ask for? What do you want to be different when we are done here? What do you want to happen that’s not happening yet? What is important to you right now? What results do you want from this coaching? How challenging is your goal? RealityHow much can you personally affect the results? What have you done about the situation so far? What’s happening right now? Where are you in relation to your goal? What relevant skills / talents / knowledge / personal qualities do you already have? OptionsSuppose you had already reached your goal. How did you get there? If you had more resources/time/money, what would you do differently? What could you do to make a difference? What does your head say about this? What does your heart say? How have you dealt with a similar situation before? Will (Drive)Who needs to know about your plans? What else can affect the result? On a scale 1-10, how willing are you to go ahead? What is the resistance within you to reaching your goal? What is driving you to reach your goal? What will you get out of the next step? |
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## AuthorTeacher, facilitator and coach; Martin Richards trains educators to use a coaching approach all the work they do. |

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