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Conversation Hearts, Questions, and Feedback

Posted on: February 12th, 2019 by Amy Kines No Comments

We’re starting to see those sugary Valentine’s Day conversation hearts, asking the recipient to “Be Mine” or just saying a simple “You Rock” – questions and feedback to brighten one’s day.  In the spirit of those clever conversation hearts, I invite you to think about the questions you ask in the classroom (and the questions teachers in your schools ask) – and the feedback you give when doing so.
Researchers Smith and Higgins (2008) looked at using questions and feedback to create what they called an “interactive classroom,” or, in other words, a classroom environment that emphasizes discourse and conversation – less teacher talk, and more student talk.  Their work resulted in some key ideas that can be implemented in your classroom and school today:
-Seek to ask more open questions, or questions that have more than one answer. And, be open to listening to (and celebrating) out-of-the-box thinking and thinkers
-Turn closed questions into opportunities for conversational interaction. For example, ask a question that has one right answer such as, “What is the length of the hypotenuse?” Then, after student responds, ask other students if they agree or disagree, or if they can explain the thinking behind the other student’s answer. This works with staff as well. As you craft your next staff meeting or training, consider the questions and interactions that are possible.
-Be mindful of your response to students’ answers. Our feedback can come in the subtlest of ways. Responding to a student one way may communicate a low expectation of their ability to respond successfully and thoroughly, while making a small change to our feedback can instill a vote of high confidence, thus send a message of high expectations. Want to send positive feedback? Ask a student (or staff member) to tell you more when they answer initially. Probe for more if the answer is incorrect. Ask questions to help guide a student to a more complete, accurate response. Paraphrase a student’s idea to validate his or her response and encourage more confidence in participation in the future.
Just as those sweet Valentine’s Day candies can get us talking, aim to increase student talk in your classroom and school by opening up questions and providing subtle feedback that promotes a high level of ongoing interaction.

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