What do the questions teachers ask in class really reveal about student learning?
It is perhaps the most familiar of all classroom routines: A teacher asks the class a question, several students raise their hands, the teacher selects one of those with a hand raised, the student gives a response, the teacher evaluates the student’s response, and the cycle begins again. Education researchers call it the standard classroom transaction model or just I-R-E(for initiation-response-evaluation). You will find this model played out it in the vast majority of classrooms in every country in the world. Teachers use this routine to assess where students are so that they can plan next steps. Yet just about every aspect of this scenario actually gets in the way of learning—and it doesn’t provide enough information on what most students in the class know and need to learn.
What’s Wrong with the Traditional Routine?
The fundamental flaw in the traditional questioning model is that it makes participation voluntary. The confident students engage by raising their hands—and by engaging in classroom discussion, they become smarter. But others decline the invitation to participate and thus miss out on the chance to get smarter.