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Changes in me and my students after joining the learning community on questioning and feedback techniques

Ma On Shan Ling Liang Primary School
Ms Ellen Li Wai Yi

This is the second year I have joined the learning community on questioning and feedback techniques organised by the Language Learning Support Section. The learning community promotes a culture of sharing, support and learning among teachers. The inter-school lesson observation experience is very valuable.

This year, I am glad that I have changed my role from a member of the learning community to a ‘change agent’ of the learning community. What did I do? I opened up my classroom for new members of the learning community. I demonstrated a lesson and led a discussion among the new members. The feedback I obtained from the teacher observers is very encouraging.

“Teacher used different levels of questions to help different levels of students. The lesson was full of questions which motivated students to learn.”
Mr Derek Wong from King Lam Catholic Primary School

“Most students could correct their mistakes after Ms Li asked follow-up/probing questions. The questions helped both the teacher and students to evaluate what they have learnt.”
Ms Vivian Lee from Tai Po Government Primary School

“There is great interaction between the teacher and students and among the students. Questioning and feedback techniques help students to develop their confidence in using English and enhance their critical thinking ability and hence expand their knowledge.”
Ms Cindy Wu from
TWGHs HK & KLN ETC APP MER ASSN LTD SCH (AM)

“Ms. Li delivered the lesson effectively. The lesson was well prepared. The objectives of the lessons were achieved. Ms. Li tried her best to get students to engage in the lesson. She was responsive to students’ responses by providing encouraging feedback and asking proper questions at the right time. The lesson is successful.”
Ms Gloria Chan from Sau Ming Primary School

I showed how to make use of some questioning and feedback techniques in the teacher-student interaction. Though the lesson was not perfect by all means, I am sure that the lesson provided all teacher observers a good chance to explore how to put questioning and feedback techniques into practice in lessons. I also received a lot of suggestions for improving my lesson. That helped me to reflect on learning and teaching effectiveness.

I have learnt a lot from the learning community. What about my students? I would like to talk about the changes of some of my students. The first case is Merry and Jason. They are active learners. They are confident and they are very eager to express themselves in lessons. Facing the more able students, I try to give them more difficult questions and most of them are higher level questions that require reasoning and critical thinking. I find that the challenging questions can help them think deeply and critically.

Sometimes I use the responses of Jason or Merry to lead to the next questions or to make a point because their answers can help stimulate the whole class to think together and work out for the answer.

As they are so active, sometimes I try to stop them from being so dominating in class. I use the ‘redirect’ strategy. After they respond to a question, I invite others to comment on their statement so that they have to listen to others’ comments. At the same time, more students can get involved in the lesson and they can learn from each other.

The second case is Yolanda and May. They were repeaters. Both of them seldom talked or spoke to others in the past. They always gave no response in lessons.

When I started to approach them, I reminded myself that I had to select an appropriate level of questions for them. The questions should be those that require simple and concrete answers. They can’t be very difficult, but they are more than yes or no questions. My strategy is to start with simple knowledge-level questions for them first.

Every lesson I let them try one or two questions. At first they failed to answer most of them. But I still maintained eye contact with them. I always smiled and nodded my head. I used non-verbal gestures to indicate my encouragement to them. I wanted them to know that I was listening to them.

I always gave them sufficient time to think as they really needed more time to think in comparison with the others. I also used a lot of prompts and gestures to help them. Sometimes when they succeeded to give a right answer or make an attempt, I praised them at once and the whole class clapped their hands, too.

And now, towards the end of the second year, they are much more able to answer some simple questions. They try to give short answers. I am happy to see their changes in class.

When I am asking questions, I know that they are listening and thinking about the answer. I am happy to see their academic improvement in dictation, speaking and writing. In the past, they seldom handed in their writing task because they didn’t understand how to do it or what to write. But now I am happy to see that they are more willing to express their ideas in the writing tasks. Though they are still the quiet group in my class in comparison with the majority, I know that they are attentive in English lessons. They have gained not only motivation but also confidence in learning English.

Changes can’t take place in seconds. It really takes time to see one’s changes. But I believe that is worth investing our time and effort. We can’t simply spoon-feed our students nowadays. We should develop their thinking skills and lifelong learning skills. Stimulating questions can promote critical and creative thinking. Effective feedback can enable students to learn how to learn and how to improve themselves. The ultimate goal is to develop them as independent learners.