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Why Do We Ask Questions?

Participation & Discussion

Why Do We Ask Questions?

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It makes me cringe when I ask a question and a student responds with, “I’m not sure if this is the answer you want, but…” Somehow students have the impression that our sole purpose for asking a question is to find someone to give us the answer, the one we are looking for. This perception can be the result of the overuse of the IRE (Initiation, Response, Evaluation) questioning format (Mehan, 1979) in which the teacher asks a question (I), the student responds (R), and the teacher provides evaluative feedback (E). With this questioning structure students can come to believe that all questions are a test of their understanding, and as a result, many students choose not to volunteer an answer because they aren’t sure that they have the right answer.

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