When Asking Questions in a Teaching Context

Strengths:

  • Great job using real-life examples your students can relate to: “How much do you think a Ph.D. student should earn after graduation?” and “Would you rent an apartment in Ames at $X per month?” ☺
  • Great job starting with a question likely to make your students think, make them curious if their guess is correct, and therefore interested in your lesson from the beginning
  • Good job asking questions during your lesson to help your students stay engaged ☺
  • Fantastic visuals and question “Is this a function?” to check whether students really understand the definition of a function ☺
  • Good job asking your students questions to help them figure out things for themselves, which will help them remember those things better than if you just tell them stuff (just remember to give your students time to answer those questions. . . .don’t ask questions and then immediately answer them yourself. . . .or your students will think they don’t actually have to use their brains when you ask questions because you’ll just tell them the answer anyway — make sense?)
  • You have done a fantastic job organizing your lesson around questions that you progressively build your students’ ability to answer — Very impressive!!! (especially considering in fact, none of your classmates know much at all about electrical engineering)
  • Very good job adding to X’s answer to make sure students’ understanding is correct/complete and yet not shaming her by making it sound like she’d given a bad/wrong answer!
  • Good use of the comprehension check mechanism, “Okay?”
  • Good job verifying whether we know what “input” is before going further in your lesson (but don’t immediately tell us what it is —ask us to tell you, and then you can check what we already know — Make sense?)
  • Great job asking questions and actually waiting for your students to respond
  • Great job asking about whether or not we know what trees are in graphing theory and giving us enough “wait time” to think of an answer and then raise our hands or start talking (your giving us wait time convinces us that you really care about our learning, not just about “throwing lots of information at us”)
  • Great job verifying with your students that it’s okay for you to erase the board, not only by asking them, but also by looking at all of us to make sure we don’t look like we’re hurrying to take notes

Weaknesses:

  • Good job asking your students questions to help them figure out things for themselves, which will help them remember those things better than if you just tell them stuff (just remember to give your students time to answer those questions. . . .don’t ask questions and then immediately answer them yourself. . . .or your students will think they don’t actually have to use their brains when you ask questions because you’ll just tell them the answer anyway — make sense?)
  • Remember that it’s good practice whenever you ask students questions to check their understanding for you to count to at least 10 silently in your head before jumping to answer your question yourself. (If you answer it, you still won’t know how well your students are understanding, but if you wait long enough, at least one of your students will probably become uncomfortable with the silence and will say something, which should give you some idea of your students’ level of understanding—Make sense?)
    • Brainstorm questions you are likely to ask your students and/or questions you think students are likely to ask about your lesson, classifying them into “Yes/No” questions vs.”Wh-” questions and then create a deck of Anki flashcards for each category. Each Anki-scheduled review day, pretend you’re really asking each question being reviewed (afterward checking to see whether you fluently applied the correct intonation). Once you are consistently applying the appropriate intonation to the questions in each Anki deck studied separately, merge the decks to see if you can continue fluently applying the appropriate (rising or falling) intonation.

When Answering Questions in a Teaching Context

Strengths:

  • The way you responded to student questions, etc., demonstrates you have good English listening skills for the American English context as well as that you respect your students ☺
  • You did a good job of answering student questions in your TEACH exam ☺
  • Good job handling our sequence of questions where we were responding to one another, one right after the other. . . you allowed us to talk to one another, yet you didn’t lose control of the class, and you helped bring us back after our discussion to the main topic you wanted to teach in a very natural way
  • Very clear answer to X’s question asking for comparison between a “competitive market” vs. a “noncompetitive market” ☺
  • Good job praising my student question ☺
  • Good job accepting X’s explanation of “syntax” and (mostly gracefully) adjusting it so his definition/explanation is even better — also, good job accepting my and other students’ wrong answers without making us feel ashamed — Wow!!! ☺
  • Good job accepting my question, which could have sounded like it was challenging you, as an honest question and answering it VERY well ☺
  • Good job handling my challenging question. . . . you handled my criticism very objectively and graciously, without losing your teacher authority or making students look down on you because you got overly defensive
  • At first I was concerned about how you responded to X’s question not covered in our class because I thought students might view your response as critical of them. However, ultimately you handled the question well. . . .

Weaknesses:

  • X asked her question so quietly, I couldn’t hear it. Therefore, I at first couldn’t understand your answer. Especially with students in the front of the classroom who ask their questions quietly, you need to repeat their question before answering it, so other students can hear the question and therefore get the greatest benefit from your answer — make sense?
  • Particularly when a student asks a question quietly, be sure to restate their question, so that other students who couldn’t hear the question clearly can benefit from your answer. . . .this is very, very, very important
  • You seemed to have difficulty answering student questions (mentioned by multiple raters)
  • You ultimately did a good job in answering X’s question in terms of providing the facts, but because you didn’t thank him for his question, praise him by saying it’s a good question, etc., he could feel like in fact you don’t want your students to ask questions. . . .you just want them to listen to you. This will make American students angry with you and likely to NOT pay attention to you — make sense?)
  • One rater commented, “The questions that this student received, especially during the TEACH, may have been difficult to answer for any student.” However, another commented, “When a question is asked, [you should] try to answer it even though the content will be explained later in the lesson.”
  • Sometimes it seemed like maybe you weren’t confident when listening that you understood your students’ questions (Or were you just nervous, as seemed to be the case in your previous OECT?)— it’s okay just to be matter-of-fact about sometimes not understanding students’ questions. Even native English speakers don’t always clearly understand their students’ questions, e.g. because sometimes students don’t ask their questions clearly! Therefore, you can guide a student regarding the part you didn’t understand by telling him/her your hypothesis regarding what his/her question is (“Did you mean. . . .?), making sure to highlight exactly which part you think you’re confused about (“. . .,but I’m not sure if you’re wanting to know X or Y. . . .”)
  • Knowing how concepts you’re teaching connect to real life will be really important to your undergraduate students, who don’t care very much about academic theory, so saying “I don’t know” to the kind of questions one of your classmates asked in one of your last presentations will make your students feel like you actually don’t know very much at all — “So why is he teaching this class? He doesn’t know anything!!!” — Make sense?
  • Don’t forget to invite your students to ask questions whenever you finish your explanation: “Any questions?”
  • It’s good to acknowledge you don’t know something, but try to give a partial answer at least, e.g. “Certainly there is something that functions like a modem in your phone, but I don’t think that’s usually what it’s called when we’re talking about a phone. . . .(scratching your head) but you know, I can’t remember right now what we do call it when we’re talking about this kind of thing in phones. . . .I’ll have to check that out ☺
  • I’m sure you know this, but the first time you ask for questions, you should say “Any questions?,” not “Any other questions?”

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