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Tip of the Week
Questions not Rhetorical
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Asking students questions is central to engaged pedagogy and active learning. However, some types of questions spark more thinking than others. Questions like “Does everybody understand?” or “That’s how Le Chatelier’s principle works, any questions?” are likely to return empty silence or superficial nods. Cavanagh notes there are a number of affective and social reasons for this: Students sense the teacher really just wants to move on, students don’t want to admit they don’t know in front of classmates,or they may not even know they don’t know. Whatever the reasons, students are not typically very engaged by rhetorical questions. 

A better approach is to “ask questions that actually reveal where your students are in their understanding of the material” (p. 140). For instance, you could ask questions that require application: “According to Le Chatelier’s principle, what would happen if you changed the conditions by increasing the temperature?” Or have students rate their understanding on a scale of 3 or 4. Have them write their responses first or group up and discuss. Polling with tools such as Poll Everywhere or Top Hat are ideal for more authentic questioning as well.
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