As I read this chapter I was able to see correlation between this chapter and Dylan William’s next book Embedding Formative Assessment which are reading as part of the Galileo sessions with CBE.
William (2011) gives examples of question shells on page 86. I really liked how there are examples given that show possible questions and how to reframe them to make them better. This actually brings me back to a session put on by the Critical Thinking Consortium at Teacher’s Convention this year. In this session they too talked about the importance of re-framing questions to encourage critical thinking. Asking “Is slate a metamorphic rock?” vs. “Why is slate a metamorphic rock?” or, “What is a prime number?” vs. :Why is 17 prime and 15 not?”. Both of these question reframed require the student to expand on their response, create a clear justification for their answer and provide evidence or support to back up their response. The reframing of these questions ask students to look for contrast and as such are aligned with VTL.
William (2011) also talks about diagnostic vs. discussion questions. More specifically William (2011) discusses hinge questions as a type of question that students cannot get correct for the wrong reason and informs the teacher of next steps. These questions must inform the teacher of the level of understanding of each child in the class, not just one or two and be able to be done quickly and efficiently, if done in the middle of a lesson, so that the teacher can continue with the learning and not have the lesson de-railed. I’ve definitely felt a push to have students explain their ideas and reasoning, which is when discussion questions should be used. However, we cannot always be eliciting student thinking in every question that we ask. When we are looking to move on, we must frame questions in a way that we can get entire class response and an accurate reading on their understanding. I believe that VLT plays a role here as well. When asking a hinge question to determine if we are able to move on, we must be asking our students to discern. These questions need to be more than just a knowledge based, regurgitate a definition and ask students to notice differences based on the lesson that has been taught. Through conversations with other teachers and reflecting on this idea myself, the difficult part of hinge point questions or the part that takes practice is ensuring that a student cannot get the correct answer for the wrong reason as then the question becomes useless.
As teachers we work throughout our career to develop our ability to ask good questions. This chapter, and VTL, further sheds light on the importance of good questioning to inform next steps for teaching and ensure student learning.
Until next time,
Wiliam, D. (2011). Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievement. In Embedded formative assessment, pp. 71-105. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.