Predicting the questions students are likely to ask

“I know you can teach well when you have time to prepare, but what I’m not certain of yet is whether you are able to usually respond to student questions quickly and fluently (None of us can always respond to student questions quickly and fluently, so don’t worry if you know you can’t do this!!!) It has just occurred to me that maybe the best way for you to use your remaining 15-minutes-per-day homework sessions is to write down 25-50 questions, each one on its own piece of paper, that you think students (or OECT raters) are likely to ask for statistics classes you might TA for in the future. Then, randomly choose one of the questions. First, practice restating the “student’s question” to 1) verify you’re correctly understanding the question and 2) to make sure students sitting on the opposite side of the classroom have the chance to clearly hear what was asked. Then try to give a 30-second to 2-minute answer to as many questions as you can during each day’s 15 minutes, practicing answering each question 2-3 times. The first time you try to answer a question, you probably won’t be able to do it fluently, but the second and third times, you will undoubtedly do better.”


Types of questions students commonly ask and suggested ways of responding to them (from Patricia L. Rounds via the York International Teaching Assistant Handbook)

“Below, for reference, are the most common types of questions that you will find yourself responding to, and some strategies to consider when responding to them. (Adapted from the article Student “Questions: When, Where, Why, and How Many” by Patricia L. Rounds. )

  • Clarification
    • Question: Student either misunderstood or didn’t hear information, or would like more detailed information.
    • Response: Paraphrase the information in a more detailed manner using everyday examples if possible.
  • Interpretation Check
    • Question: Student attempts to paraphrase information in a way that’s easier for them to understand, or gives an example from their own experience.
    • Response: Listen carefully, and let student know that they are on the right track, or make gentle corrections where necessary.
  • Digression
    • Question: Student asks a question which is either off-topic, or one which will swerve the discussion towards irrelevant issues.
    • Response: Address any issues related to the session, being careful to not let the discussion move too far away from the central course material.
  • Challenge
    • Question: Student refutes something you or someone else has said in the class or points out what they perceive as errors.
    • Response: Review the student’s points, then review your own and see where the inconsistency lies. If the student is correct, acknowledge this and move on. If the student is incorrect or has misunderstood, attempt to re-explain your case. If the student wants to continue the challenge, offer to meet with him or her in your office hours to continue the discussion.
  • Demonstration Requested
    • Question: Student would like to see instructor perform a problem described or give an example.
    • Response: Use an example from everyday life to work through the problem. Sometimes multiple examples may be required.
  • Answer a Question
    • Question: Student answers a question you have posed to the class as a question.
    • Response: In this case the question being asked is whether the answer they have given is complete and correct. Simply acknowledge the student’s answer as correct or incorrect and make any corrections required.

This material has been excerpted from the York International Teaching Assistant Handbook and represents an adaptation of material found in Patricia L. Rounds’ “Questions: When, Where, Why, and How Many”)


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