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Teaching Tips and Resources for Librarians

Asking and Answering Questions

Asking Questions

Use questions as a way to make quick, formative assessments, break up the monotony of lecturing, and encourage student engagement.

Tips and Strategies

  • Be patient. The recommended amount of wait time after asking a question is ten seconds. This will seem like an uncomfortable eternity, but it is important processing time for students. Try counting silently to yourself, before offering a hint or rephrasing the question.
  • Move from closed to open-ended questions. Starting with simple yes or no questions, or questions that draw on experience rather than knowledge, can help students become comfortable and more willing to take a risk on a deeper question later in the class.
  • Consider using repetition with questions, asking the same thing throughout class and building upon the answer as instruction progresses.
  • If students are reluctant to speak, you can ask for a show of hands as response.
  • Use questions to clarify instructions or summarize a point.
  • Try to avoid asking, "Does everyone understand?" or "Is that clear?" Students will typically not speak out in a group when they are confused. Instead, try asking something more open, like "what questions do we have about that?"
  • Experiment with asking questions using Google Forms or Poll Everywhere.

Teaching from Incorrect Responses

It takes courage to answer a question in a group, and you never know what type of response you will get. Avoid labeling a student's answer as wrong, and use inaccurate responses as teachable moments.

  • Acknowledge any part of the answer that is correct: "You're right about X, great job, let's talk a little bit more about Y."
  • Try finding out more about their thought process: "That's interesting, what makes you think that?". 
  • If the student's answer represents a common misconception, point that out and clarify: "Thanks for bringing that up, a lot of people think that. Let's talk about why that might not be the case."
  • Thank the student for their answer, invite more responses, and piece together a correct answer: "Thanks for sharing that. Does anyone else have thoughts on this question?"

Answering Questions

Questions asked by students can help clarify content and provide feedback on your presentation or how the class is progressing. 

Tips and Strategies

  • Paraphrase/Repeat: When someone asks a question, paraphrase or repeat it back so the whole class is sure to have heard it before you answer.
  • Commend/Appreciate: Thank and acknowledge students for asking questions, "Thanks for bringing that up" or "Great question".
  • Be Honest: It's ok to not have all the answers, and students will appreciate your honesty. Offer to find out the answer and get back to either the whole class or the individual student.
  • If no one asks any questions, avoid following up with statements like, "No questions? Yeah, it's pretty easy/simple". The absence of questions does not necessarily mean that everyone understands. Students may not feel comfortable speaking up or may not know exactly how to frame their question yet. Acknowledge that research is a process, and invite and encourage students to contact you after the session when questions come up.

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