The power of questioning is very much under appreciated in traditional school.
Think about it. In a traditional classroom, who does the questioning? What's bad is that we all know that teachers typically ask all the questions, and when they do so the research shows that they wait less than a second before either asking a different question, rephrase it or answer it themselves.
I want to make two points. Firstly, teachers should not ask so many questions, and when they do, they need to provide far more wait-time so students have time to think of a meaningful response.
Here's what I mean:
For the teacher to ask all the questions is simply a waste of a valuable means of assessment. A good teacher never wastes the opportunity to have students do the wondering. Listeningto others questions can be a remarkable assessment tool. Consider these two lines of questioning:
Sally - "Are their different kinds of blood cells?"
Johnny - "What makes white blood cells so good at protecting other cells?"
Can you see how being privy to these students' line of questioning can help us determine their level of understanding?
Now, I'm not judging the kids by saying one question is dumb because I understand that before Johnny came to know of white blood cells, there is a very good chance he had to ask the very same question as Sally. The point is not that one question is better than the other, rather, they both illustrate a kind of curiousity that becomes infectious which leads to a viral kind of learning. Without Sally's question, it would have been unlikely Johnny could have asked his.
Could you use this as a way to judge students? Sure, if your into summative assessment, you can use anything as a weapon to judge students, but I am far more interested in using this information as just that - information that helps me to direct my teaching so that I may help the student to learn more which is more about formative assessment.
My second point is that teachers simply don't wait long enough. I call this the radio effect beacause while teaching, teachers can start to feel like they are on radio, and in radio the cardinal sin is dead air. So, when we ask a question, we can get quite impatient. We tend to want to avoid that dead air, so we fill it.
Problem is the classroom isn't radio. Think about the kinds of questions that can be answered in less that a second. They are typically one-word, right or wrong, mindless responses that contribute very little to learning anyways. They are questions we typically shouldn't be asking in the first place.
I would rather see teachers ask questions that require students develop a thouhtful response that requires an explanation that are difficult to judge as right or wrong.
If teachers use question period as a fishing expedition for right answers, they wasting a first-class opportunity to stretch their students' thinking.