Use higher-order questions to help students build explanations.
- Study your discipline to better understand how scientists, historians, mathematicians, and those who study literature ask questions and provide explanations.
- In order to generate higher-order questions that get at the heart of a subject area, teachers must become familiar with the types of questions, important understandings, and sources of evidence that shape their particular discipline. Teachers can also generate higher-order questions that challenge students' assumptions or misconceptions.
- Encourage students to dig deeper by asking them to explain their thinking in speaking and writing.
- Teachers should use questions that prompt students to think critically about course content as a way to deepen understanding about factual content. Teachers should ask students to provide explanations for their understandings that go beyond repetition of material that has already been taught in discussions and written assignments.
- Create a classroom culture that encourages students to take academic risks and share ideas with the class.
- Students are often reluctant to share their ideas beyond a one-word answer. Without a classroom culture that encourages academic risk-taking, students may limit their responses to simple, repetitive answers. Teachers need to provide a supportive environment for students to share more in-depth and analytical thoughts in class discussions (e.g., allow sufficient wait time for responses, provide sentence starters to scaffold explanations, create norms and structures for respectful dialogue).
- Provide teachers with professional development about how to make question-asking and explanation-generating a natural part of the classroom environment.
- Teachers should reflect on whether their classroom routines, activities, and learning environment are creating opportunities for students to develop deep explanations in response to higher-order questions on studied topics. Teachers need time to learn effective questioning strategies and to examine students' responses in a professional development environment that values well-supported arguments and critical thinking.