Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Getting Students to Ask Questions

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Getting Students to Ask Questions

Article excerpt

Daniel J. Klionsky of the University of California-Davis, has recently published some tips for eliciting questions from students, especially in large classes. His techniques for increasing student participation are presented in relation to his introductory biology class of 300, but could apply to a variety of settings. He claims, "Amazingly, much of what I do all happens on the first day of class" (p. 1).

Klionsky is interested in students being active participants in his class rather than passive note takers. He believes they will accept most rules for running a class as long as they are made clear and are consistently applied. Therefore, on the first day of class he lets class members know he wants them to ask questions in five ways.

First, he tells the class he welcomes questions. He introduces the idea by relating a story from his college days in which that instructor explained, "while it might be embarrassing to ask a question, by not asking a question, you pass along your ignorance to your children and so on down the line" (p. 1).

Second, he makes every student in the class perform the simple physical act of raising their hands section by section; he says they WILL do this if asked and perhaps feel more comfortable doing it as a group. Afterward, he points out that, visibly, they are capable of raising their hands, and he sincerely wants them to do so if they have a question. He then offers another avenue by which students can indicate something is not clear He tells them to yell "stop....with this many people, I might miss a raised hand, but I will hear a shouted `stop."' The method allows students to let the instructor know they don't understand something without identifying themselves. …

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