- Students often have trouble taking risks in their work, worried they may get an answer or solution wrong, but high school math teacher Solenne Abaziou writes for Edutopia that she motivates her students to do so by giving them a grade for participation.
- Such educational stepping stones can encourage students to be better problem solvers, supporting their efforts to learn and building persistence as opposed to focusing solely on finding the right answer.
- Bringing games or problem-solving exercises — ones not tied to the actual lesson — can also let students feel they’re taking a break from academics, even as they’re “flexing their problem-solving muscles,” she writes.
Open-ended questions, which provoke students to think through answers rather than provide rote responses, are often preferred in educational settings. There are rarely wrong or right results, and the conversation — where students dominate the discussion rather than teachers — can be a lesson in and of itself.
In a 2015 study for the University of Iowa, Sungho Kim analyzed the impact of questions on students in inquiry-based approaches as compared to traditional classrooms. Kim found that when teachers allowed students to speak more during class, their responses were more on the order of “higher-order thinking instead of lower-order thinking, compared to when teacher talk dominated the class time,” she wrote.
That’s not to say closed-ended questions can’t be effective. When looking to see whether students have retained specific information, these kind of questions can be helpful, according to The Teaching Center out of Washington University. Still, open questions are “the most effective in encouraging discussion and active learning in the classroom,” it notes.
Curriculum instructors looking to create a well-rounded educational setting for students would want to encourage teachers and administrators to run lessons that balance the two: questions that ensure students have grasped basic information, and those that show they have critical thinking skills to support their education going forward.