May 12, 2022

Questions to focus on your teaching practices

Nothing works as well as a good question when it comes to flexing the intellectual muscles. Given the day-to-day demands of most academic positions, there isn’t a lot of time to spend thinking about teaching. But good questions are useful because they can be taken with us and thought about from time to time, here and there. And they can be discussed with colleagues, in person or online.

The set of questions below was developed for a teacher beliefs interview protocol that was used to explore the beliefs of beginning high school science teachers. The questions were derived from the analysis of semi-structured interviews with over 100 pre-service teachers.

These questions of protocol are fundamental: they touch on the foundation on which most pedagogical practices are based. And these aren’t questions just for beginning teachers, as this slightly edited version shows.

  • How do you optimize student learning in your classroom?
  • How would you describe your role as a teacher?
  • How do you know your students understand?
  • In your [courses]how do you decide what to teach and what not to teach? [This could mean what content you opt to include, or it could mean how you decide
  • What you should cover and what students can learn on their own.]
  • How do you decide when to move on to a new topic in your class?
  • How do students learn [your subject matter] better?
  • How do you know when learning is happening in your classroom?

There are many ways to use a set of questions like this, starting with a personal reflection. How long has it been since you asked yourself such questions? These are great questions for mentors to explore with those they mentor. Would it be interesting to discuss one or two in a departmental meeting? Could they be used to structure a faculty workshop or retreat session?

Do you think your answers to questions like these have changed over time, that you have changed, or that the students have changed? How interesting it would be to jot down a few ideas and answers at the start of a career and then revisit them from time to time over the years. Are the answers different depending on the course you teach or the level of the students enrolled in the course? Online education would definitely change your answers. Does online teaching make it harder to answer these types of questions?

Reference: Luft, JA and Roehrig, GH (2007). Capturing the epistemological beliefs of science teachers: the development of the interview on teachers’ beliefs. Electronic Journal of Science Education11 (2), 38-63.

Reprinted from Powerful Question Set, teacher teacher, 29.6 (2015): 7. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

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