Additionally, I am an advocate for getting rid of the “sit and get” style of PD. Neither adults nor students want to be talked at for an hour straight. Questioning is a perfect example of this. Questioning is an area that we all could improve upon (myself included). However, we have all attended generic questioning PDs where we get a list of Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs and review Depth of Knowledge, and leave really no better than we came in.
When discussing the idea of questioning as a topic for a Tuesday PD, the math coordinator and I saw this as an opportunity to step up our game when it came to PD.
We asked teachers to film 15-20 minutes of their own teaching. We told them it had to be when they were leading instruction (not 15 minutes of independent student work time), but we gave them no other information. We wanted the video to be an honest snapshot of their classroom.
- Planning note - One fear was that teachers would not bring video. This actually only occurred with 2 out of 12 of our teachers. We think we were able to get everyone to bring video for a few reasons. One, we’ve created a pretty supportive culture in our department. Two, with this being said, we think most didn’t want to be seen as the teacher that didn’t come prepared. Three, we were very clear that they would be the only person to see this video.
We told teachers we were going to be talking about questioning, and they would be looking at their own questioning. The math coordinator and I each told personal stories about how we thought our questioning was amazing, only to watch video of ourselves and recognize that we were not quite as amazing as we thought we were. Our goal was to help teachers understand why they were doing this activity, and to see the benefit. We wanted to lead by example, that we had engaged in this same process, and we continue to go through this process as coaches, as well. We asked teachers to watch their own videos, and pause to write down every question they asked and how many students responded (using the chart below).
Once teachers had time to write their questions, we paused and brought everyone back together. First, we explained the O/C column. That was for them to code whether their question was an open question (more than one right answer), or a closed question (just one specific answer). We hinted that the number of student responses was going to be a good indicator of the type of question (only one response indicates that it is probably a closed question). From there, we handed out the chart of Effective vs. Ineffective questions, which corresponded with the E/I column. Teachers then went back and coded their questions based on whether they were open or closed, and effective or ineffective.
Teachers that took the activity seriously had the same reaction the math coordinator and I described. My questioning sucks was the response of one teacher. This sounds extreme, but I know what she meant. We always think we are asking quality questions. However, the reality, when you see it, can be very eye opening. And this sentiment wasn’t shared in a disheartening manner, but more in a realization of the growth they were capable of. We had an opportunity for teachers to share what they noticed, and then teachers wrote goals for themselves in terms of questioning.
The feedback we received from this PD was highly positive. The personal nature of it allowed teachers to be highly engaged as everything was specific to their own practice. It was inherently differentiated for teachers who were at different levels and years of practice. Teachers had choice in where they wanted to focus their goal setting and future improvement.
Long story short - If you have the opportunity to use video in your own PD, I highly recommend it. It takes PD to the next level!