How can teachers’ questions contribute to the co-operative classroom?

Yael Sharan explores the ways that teachers’ open-ended questions promote the exchange of ideas and knowledge among students, and form the basis for an engaging co-operative classroom

Rarely is a co-operative learning classroom quiet. Group members talk. One student may be explaining a mathematics problem to a peer; others may be discussing answers to a question or planning how to investigate a topic. This type of talk is possible in a classroom where students and teachers have learned to listen to one another and respect one another’s ideas, thus replacing the pervasive game of “ping pong” between the teacher’s questions and individual students’ answers. How can a teacher create such a co-operative classroom, where all students have a voice?

What we know
● In engaging co-operative classrooms, teachers ask open-ended questions and listen to answers non-judgmentally.
● Teachers model the relevant kind of verbal behaviours to promote the voicing of students’ ideas and questions.
● Weaving students’ answers and ideas into the fabric of the lesson validates their contributions.
● Teachers’ constant reflection on their own verbal behaviours ensures effective practice.

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December 2015