Plenty of research has been done to prove how important effective questioning techniques are in an academic setting, but without purposeful planning, your question game as a tutor might be lacking. If your students seem to be too dependent on you for right answers and stare at you like “Well?” even if the answer to a question is staring them in the face, it might be time to up your questioning skills. Train The Brain has your back with these helpful tips to fully prepared you with an arsenal of effective questioning techniques before your next tutoring session.
If you plan questions ahead of time based on the content your student needs help with, you’ll feel more confident as you come into the session, and both you and your student will benefit from the prep work. You might not get a chance to ask everything you plan to ask, but these questions will be a good way to structure your time if you start to feel at all lost during the session. Some students will come to you with clear knowledge of where their learning has broken down; others won’t know where to begin. Starting your session with some basic content questions and then moving into higher level questions will help you clarify where the student’s understanding starts to wane. Of course, you don’t want to drill your student, but checking in to see where they start to need intervention and guidance is a great way to make sure your student gets the most out of their session time.
Make A Cheat Sheet
The Ohio Department of Education actually provides a great cheat sheet of Depth of Knowledge Question Stems. Depth of Knowledge (DOK) helps you make sure that students more deeply understand content you’re trying to help them learn by laying a foundation of knowledge first. By following the Depth of Knowledge levels, you can help your students come to conclusions on their own by starting with some basic questions and moving up to more in-depth understanding. DOK helps you teach your students how to learn by demonstrating the progression from DOK 1 (knowledge acquisition) to DOK 2 (knowledge application), and then to DOK 3 and 4 (knowledge analysis and knowledge augmentation respectively).
Ask Open-Ended Questions
One of the mistakes tutors sometimes make is to ask students a question that is too direct and doesn’t require them to think. Those are fine to set a foundation for helping them, but if you’re basically leading them to the right answer most of the time instead of showing them how they can find the right answer, you’re teaching them to be dependent on you, and that won’t transfer to success when they’re independent of you in the classroom. You want your students to make progress, so be sure that your questions are more open-ended to encourage them to find the answers themselves. The human brain retains much more of what we discover ourselves than what is simply provided for us by someone else.
Try some questions like the critical thinking questions below:
- • What does the text/your notes say about that?
- • Can you rephrase that?
- • What are you assuming?
- • How does that idea relate to your thesis?
- • Summarize what we just did.
- • Explain to me the example you did in class.
- • Why do you think that’s so?
Refer Students To Their Notes
When a student gets stuck on something that you’ve already covered, refer them back to their notes or the concepts that you just covered together. Ask them what their instructor said, ask them where the topic is in their textbook, and ask them to show you their notes and textbook. Having students read out what they covered in class is an important skill to teach them in order for them to start learning how to be independent learners. Often students’ main struggle is that they don’t know how to be independent. By teaching them that they most likely already have the answer in front of them, you’re helping them become more independent thinkers and teaching them a lesson that will last far beyond academia.
This also goes right back to refusing to simply hand answers over to your students. Giving them the answer is not as beneficial and won’t stick with them as long as having to find the answer themselves, not to mention the fact that if they don’t see progress, they’ll eventually feel like you haven’t helped them. Referring them back to their own notes or text also gives you the opportunity to see if they actually take notes and know where to find the content or online textbook pages. If they don’t, then that’s an important intervention you can encourage them to make. They need to come to the next session prepared with notes and access to a textbook. That alone will improve their academic potential and performance.
Use Wrong Answers As An Opportunity
If a student gives you a wrong answer, help them find out what’s wrong with it without telling them yourself. Part of your job as a tutor is to help them learn how to learn and how to use their critical thinking skills. By having some questions ready for wrong answers, you can help them work through their own thinking in the future.
Here are some helpful questions to ask students when they come to you with wrong ideas and answer:
- • Why are you saying that?
- • Show me how you would do that.
- • What do you already know about this?
- • How can you verify that assumption?
- • What would happen if…?
- • How do you know that?
- • Why?
- • What evidence is there to support what you are saying?
- • How could you look at this another way?
- • How does that fit with what you’ve already learned?
Taking the time to think about and plan for question during your tutoring sessions will help your students, but it will also ensure that they’re seeing the progress they need to see in order to keep coming back for your expert help.
About Train The Brain
Train The Brain is an innovative online homework help and tutoring service that learners can access anywhere they have a solid internet connection. Students and tutors no longer have to leave their homes and sit around at a tutoring center. TTB allows anyone to set up and attend tutoring or homework help sessions with our highly qualified content area experts in the comfort of your own home, the library, an office, or an empty classroom. If you want to learn more about TTB and the services we offer, feel free to check out our services and our blog. Additionally, you can reach out to our Train The Brain admins online. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.