Image of How Effective Questioning Can Increase Learner Engagement

How Effective Questioning Can Increase Learner Engagement

This article presents ways to effectively question and engage students on online platforms. It is even harder to check learning within the online classroom environment and easier for more reluctant students to not engage in discussions or question and answer sessions.

Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom have been essential for teachers and students, allowing them to continue teaching and learning remotely. However, one of the main challenges observed by experts has been that there are no hands up.

One of the most daunting tasks facing the online educator is encouraging students to talk to you. This becomes harder when those whose learning teachers need to monitor do not engage online.

It makes little sense to select a respondent from the volunteers because students only tend to raise their hands when confident that they have the correct answer. Instead, if a teacher asks a question, students should be given time to think about what their response might be. Then, the teacher should select a student or multiple students to respond. 

Here are a few ideas to encourage learners to become more involved in online learning and allow you to check their understanding of your lessons.

Set expectations

Make it clear that you expect your students to contribute. Then, begin each lesson with a quick-fire quiz or activity. This will encourage your students to verbally engage earlier in the session, meaning they will have more confidence to do the same later.

This Random Name Picker is a good way to start.

Avoid the 'hot potato'

Do not ask the same question to every student in the class. This makes it difficult for students to answer because they will feel that they have nothing new to say. If this happens, then no real, meaningful conversation will develop. Use this technique at the end of a session to allow each student to sum up, in 30 seconds, what they have learnt in the session or what they would like to learn more about.

Try Ping Pong

Ask a different question to each of the students in the group. This exercise is teacher lead but could be suitable for checking learning. Unlike ‘hot potato’ style questioning, learners will not need to build upon the answers of others in the group.

Teachers, make sure that you have a large bank of questions for this to work effectively. Ensure that you question each learner according to their ability levels.

Tom Sherrington’s ‘Say it Again, Better’ technique means that you reject average answers. For older learners, consider asking them to record answers in a chat function and then ask them to add to their answers verbally during the learning session.

Bounce questions

Ask a student a question and identify two other students who will then explain whether they agree with the answer given or add anything to it. Students will know that they are expected to contribute verbally. Students will then have the time to think about and prepare their answer.

Effective online questioning enables teachers to check whether desired learning outcomes have been achieved during the session.

A key element of all techniques and ideas listed is that students have time to prepare. Teachers have the time to ensure that students feel ready to contribute. To further prepare your students to answer, teachers could consider sending students one sentence starters to help support planning.

These techniques mean that there will be less teacher talk. Students will talk to teachers more and engage with each other, meaning that teachers will not talk at students but engage with them.

Further Reading: Practical Ideas for Classroom Formative Assessment