Art of Questioning – PD Day #T3Learns #nspiredatT3

The tribe of T³ Instructors gathers the day before the 2013 T³™ International Conference to learn together. I am honored to be part of the team that has been asked to facilitate a PD experience for my colleagues and friends.  Our topic: The Art of Questioning.

Below is the description as it was sent to the T³ Instructors and our tentative agenda.

The Art of Questioning – 120 minutes

This session will focus on the art of questioning.  Strategies will be discussed to assist learners to “level up” through questions rather than lectures.  Come prepared to develop documents to help students calibrate their understanding, and share your assessments with others for feedback and suggestions.


  • Introduce a protocol for facilitating learners to ask their own questions
  • Introduce leveled assessment
  • Participants develop a leveled assessment and share it with other attendees


Jill Gough, Sam Gough, Grant Lichtman, Jeff McCalla

Materials Needed:

  • TI-Nspire Navigator for Networked Computers

Agenda 2:

(10 min)            Introduce facilitators
(20 min)           Learn with Grant Lichtman via Skype
(30 min)           Art of Questioning using EllipseInvest.tns
(15 min)            Break
(20 min)           Introduce Leveled Assessment
(30 min)           Participants develop a product
(10 min)           Share session

Grant is going to share two powerful stories of teaching and learning through the art of questioning. He has also agree to take us through an exercise from The Falconer to illustrate the possibilities when asking quality questions.  <EXCITING!>

Jeff, Sam, and I will model methods of using TI-Nspire’s interactive capabilities to give rise to more student questions by putting our participants in the seat of the students.  We will share student-learner reactions, challenges, and successes. The overarching idea is posted at Practice seeking questions – #AskDon’tTell and a sample story is shared in the post Ellipse Investigation – #AskDon’t Tell.

We will recommend and read from several books (listed below) that have helped us frame our work. Our goal is to facilitate a workshop where the participants learn by doing.

From an earlier blog post:

  1. Read, read, read…Currently high on my list:
    1. Grant Lichtman‘s The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School,
    2. John Barell’s Developing More Curious Minds, and
    3. Dan Rothstein’s Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions.
  2. Practice, practice, practice…Remove the scaffolding:
    1. Watch Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover and try it.
    2. Stop creating slideuments.  If your TI-Nspire document, your PowerPoint presentation, or your worksheet has multiple pages, slides, or steps, eliminate lots! Create space for questions, investigation, and thinking.
    3. Use Gamestorming games to develop techniques for learning to ask questions. I like Brainwriting3-12-3, and others.
  3. Risk, reflect, revise:
    1. Try it – more than once. One trial does not make an experiment.  Celebrate even small successes.
    2. Have strong wait time, and have questions in your “back pocket” if prompting is needed.
    3. Seek feedback from a trusted colleague. Engage in peer observations to help you see from another perspective.


  1. I’m going out on a learner limb here, usually I consider myself a “lurker”, not a writer. So, here goes! I was challenged at this session on questioning to reflect on my practice. I thought I did ask a lot of questions. I know my evaluators have often commented about the questions I ask and ability to reach all students during a class. But, Jill, Jeff, Grant, and Sam were talking about something different. And as much as I thought during the session, “this is impossible!”, I went back into the classroom on Monday morning determined to make some changes. The first change came with the way I was usually using Quick Polls in an Algebra 1 class – co taught with a special education teacher – with inclusion. I have used them for exit tickets, openers, reviewing homework, and short quizzes. This time I was fully prepared to use them with the instruction – not after or before – I delivered a lesson on factoring completely. I prepared about 12 questions, and as we looked at the results, we took notes. I posed questions such as, which of these expressions do you think has a common factor? What is the first thing you see when you look at this problem? I was amazed at how engaged they were every step of the way! And…drum roll…I even had a student pop out with a “what if” question of his own because I was able to model this a lot with their results from the QP. We had such rich discussions as we went along and noticed the number of misconceptions that were shared. It was powerful.
    My second implementation was in a Concept Geometry class. Jill shared how she asks students to “level up”, and this hit me as something I need to do with this class. There are students with a large range of ability here, and this is my biggest challenge – besides that it is the last hour of the day and about half have ADHD! Using the results of the quiz I gave them on special right triangles – where nearly half the class failed and half the class did A or B work, I jumped in at the opportunity to pair up my students. I asked one to be the teacher and the other to be the student. I said, “some of you gotta level up” to your peer. To the student with the teacher role I posed, “your challenge is to see if you can get your classmate to your level”. I then had 12 questions – one for each pair – which varied in level of difficulty. The students had a recording sheet for each of the 12 problems, so what I needed from them looked short and doable. Each pair of students had each problem for about 3 minutes, and then passed it on to the next pair. The answer to each problem was on the back of the next problem. But, I’m telling you, I’ve never seen these kids work harder. They were explaining and teaching to each other and from each other. As I facilitated I would stop and ask, “what level do you think this problem is, 1, 2, or 3”. It was so neat to see them even stop to think about that. In the end, one of the higher students asked me, “what will we do tomorrow while they retest?” And my reply? Move up a level! He smiled.

    Wow – thank you again for the insights. I look forward to “making just one change” again.


  2. Kara, This is awesome! Outstanding work on your part. Thank you so much for sharing. I love how you challenged every student to level up! Asking the student to teach and show others what they know is great community building. And, if that wasn’t great enough, you made success for this challenge be the INFLUENCE and EFFECT they had on another student’s learning. Brava!!


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