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Call for Submissions: The Questions We Ask Students

Teachers make bold claims when they talk to students about questions—“the best answer is the next question,” “the only bad question is the one you don’t ask,” “to ask is better than to answer.” Questions do play a powerful role in learning, but it’s often an unexamined one. In the crush of everyday course preps, questions aren’t usually developed beforehand. As interactions with students unfold, they come to mind on the spot. This common approach motivates us to ask: How thoughtful and purposeful is your use of questions? Do you prepare questions, analyze how well they worked and preserve the good ones? I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t, and for lots of teaching years.

We’d like to dig deeper into the questions teachers ask students—challenging you with some pointed queries that explore the role questions play in your teaching. Could your questions be more powerful, compelling, provocative, or motivating—better at pointing students in the direction of learning? Yes, we know, the questions students ask us are terribly important, but we’re in control of the ones we ask. And there’s one more bold claim made for questions: “Quality answers emerge from quality questions.”

To those of you who’ve answered our previous requests for responses, thank you. We’ve enjoyed assembling your contributions into what we hope are useful resources. (See here, here, and here.) Creating them feels like a community endeavor that gives us the chance to learn from and with each other. The approach we’re taking in soliciting input on questions is a riff that sounds familiar but slightly different. A set of prompts follows. We invite you to answer one or several—in a few words, a sentence, a paragraph, or a short article. Share your views, opinions, insights, and experiences. Be encouraged to illustrate your answers with examples, good ideas, and, of course, more questions.

Please send your responses to Maryellen Weimer (grg@psu.edu) by June 15, 2021.

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