My weekly ‘Monday teaching and learning’ post: I’ve been thinking about questioning in A-level Sociology recently,* in particular I’ve been asking myself ‘what are the best quick-fire questions to ask students about theories and concepts’ and ‘what’s the best way to present these questions’?
By ‘best’ I mean what kinds of questioning style will most effectively develop knowledge recall, understanding and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation? And how can this be done quickly!
I’m only really interested here in questioning as a review activity (not the kinds of question you ask during a regular lesson), so this is meant for recapping previous lessons work, as part of a plenary, or as part of a revision lesson.
As I see it, the most effective way to ask questions is to do so in a hierarchical order, starting with basic recall, and moving up through application, analysis, and evaluation, and you could even tag on a conclusion type question at the end.
I tend to ask eight questions to recap any theory or concept… In the example below, I used these questions on a PPT with the headings as titles and the prompts in the main body of each slide. This was a simple, verbal pair-work recap task (with the usual further development questions tagged on). There’s also nothing from stopping you dumping these questions onto Socrative.
I also use prompts to speed things up, and you could of course make these prompts as cards and for each slide get students to do ranking/ sorting exercises.
Eight Questions About Dependency Theory
(which could be asked about any other theory or concept)
(AO1) Explain why poor countries are poor according to Dependency Theory
HINT: Use the following concepts…
(A01) Give some examples which best illustrates Dependency Theory
Try to think of one ‘developed’ and one ‘less developed’ nation
(AO2) Apply Dependency Theory to something else…
Use Dependency Theory to evaluate Modernisation Theory
What do you think the function of education in poor countries might be according to Dependency Theory?
(A03) Analyse Dependency Theory: How does the theory/ concept relate to the following concepts below:
Marxist theory more generally
(A03) Analyse Dependency Theory
Who developed it (where did it come from)?
If you could convince everyone it’s true, then whose interests does it serve?
(AO3) Evaluate Dependency Theory using evidence
Identify as many pieces of supporting evidence as you can
Identify as many pieces of counter-evidence as you can…
(A03) Evaluate using other theories
HINT: What would Modernization Theory say about this theory?
(AO2) Interim Conclusion – How useful is Dependency Theory?
HINT: Where ’10’ is explains everything and 0 is explains nothing, what score would you give Dependency Theory out of 10 in explaining why rich countries and rich and poor countries poor?
Asking these eight questions in relation to other theories and concepts…
Other topics I’ve used this template with recently include (with different prompts) The Functionalist View of Education, The Correspondence Principle (focusing in more deeply on just one Marxist concept of education), The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development and the concept of Gross National Income as an indicator of development (the kind of concepts this 8 question hierarchy works well for might actually surprise you).
Of course this won’t work for everything and will need tweeking, but to my mind, this is a nice general questioning structure that ticks my 20-80 rule – spend 20 mins prepping to get 80 mins of students doing – NOT the inverse!
*I’m fairly sure this is a big contributor to mental illness among teachers, it’s exhausting.