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Harnessing the Power of Higher-Level Questioning with EPiC™

In a rapidly evolving world, the jobs of tomorrow have yet to be created. To navigate this uncertainty, today's students must cultivate critical thinking skills, enabling them to adapt, innovate, and excel in careers we can't even imagine today. Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs) must recognize the importance of equipping teacher candidates with robust questioning techniques to promote complex thinking processes among their future students. Teacher candidates, in turn, must adeptly pose questions that spark curiosity, stimulate reflection, and provoke deeper exploration of the content, nurturing students' inherent problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Central to the development of questioning proficiency is an understanding of frameworks like Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) and Bloom's Taxonomy. These frameworks provide a roadmap for crafting questions that traverse cognitive levels, from foundational knowledge to sophisticated analysis and creation. By integrating strategies aligned with these frameworks into their classrooms, teacher candidates can orchestrate learning experiences that engage students in rigorous cognitive processes.

The EPiC™ Key Assessment evaluates teacher candidates' proficiency with high-level questioning strategies in Rubric A-5 Using Questioning Strategies to Develop Critical Thinking. With the EPiC™ Part A Scoring Tool, EPPs gain insights into candidates' ability to utilize open-ended questions, provide targeted feedback, and promote a culture of inquiry in the classroom. The evidence-based data collected with the tool informs continuous improvement plans, underscores the significance of questioning in pedagogical practice, and allows EPPs to coach teacher candidates struggling to improve the quality of their questions. Below are sample evidence markers for section A-5.1 Student Questioning.

EPPs may recommend that teacher candidates encountering challenges with questioning investigate practical and easy-to-implement strategies such as:

  1. Provide students with question stems for critical thinking such as those found on the Question Stem Matrix. Having students ask analytical questions (e.g., What is the function of...? Why did... ...changes occur?), evaluative questions (e.g., What are the pros and cons of...? Is there a better solution to...?), and/or essential questions (e.g., What would happen if...? Should there be a rule against...?) increases students' understanding of the content and enables them to contextualize the concepts within their own experience.

  2. Encourage students to participate in a "Quescussion." Start the Quescussion by providing a trigger (e.g., poem, topic, theme). The trigger might be a problem to be solved, a provocative question/statement, some text or a key word, a video clip, a multimedia presentation, or a website to be analyzed or discussed. Have students participate in a discussion about the topic that only contains questions.

  3. Reverse the questioning process by having students write their own questions relating to the topic on sticky notes, on a virtual word wall, or on an online discussion board to record their questions for discussion purposes.

  4. Ask students to think about and focus on some of the tougher or more important concepts they encountered in the lesson, and then have them propose questions that start with “explain” or that use “how” and “why” framing. 

  5. Use some class time to identify the characteristics of higher-order questions; then ask students to write questions about the lesson based on Bloom’s taxonomy.

Moreover, the EPiC™ Support Dashboard offers a repository of coaching tools to benefit students seeking to improve the quality of their questioning or bolster their effectiveness in nurturing complex thinking among students. For example, EPPs may recommend included PD Byte™ self-led online professional development courses such as How To Trigger Student Questions or When to Use Question Stems for teacher candidates to complete on their own.

Effective higher-level questioning skills among teacher candidates are imperative for fostering a culture of inquiry and intellectual curiosity in classrooms. EPPs play a pivotal role in equipping educators with the pedagogical tools and strategies necessary to elicit complex thinking processes among students. By embracing frameworks like Webb's DOK and Bloom's Taxonomy, and leveraging the EPiC™ Key Assessment as a driver for growth, EPPs can nurture cohorts of educators adept at propelling students toward deeper understanding, critical thinking, and lifelong learning.

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