Nicola Alonge on critical thinking through questions

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Nichola began her presentation by getting us to respond to different questions about an Antonio Lopez Madrid painting to illustrate the difference between knowledge-based questions and those which encourage critical-thinking skills at different levels. Apparently, we teachers spend about 80% of our time asking content questions rather than questions which open up conversation and promote vocabulary development.

We were then given a set of questions to classify according to the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, a framework which teachers can use to focus on higher order thinking. This was linked to another very useful handout – one showing the stages of second language acquisition, student characteristics at each stage, and tiered question stems for use at each stage.

Next came the group work - we were given a set of question stems which illustrated the different levels, before we set to devising our own questions on different given topics. 

This was an exceedingly useful activity, giving us the opportunity to put the theory into immediate practice. It was followed by a couple of helpful hints – for example ‘allow sufficient ‘wait time’ after a question, and don’t limit your responses to ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

By the end of the session, we were all well-equipped to plan how we would challenge students to think critically in our next and subsequent classes.


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