Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we don’t give people a chance to share how they are thinking; instead we tend to give them the ‘right answer’ and share our own opinions. This can cause them to lose interest and confidence, and potentially prevent them from learning.
I recently had the privilege of attending a workshop entitled “Eliciting and Interpreting Student Thinking” facilitated by Teacher Educator extraordinaire, Megan Webster. She challenged participants to utilize specific strategies and structures that encourage students to ‘put their thinking on the table’.
Using a few simple phrases can be powerful in eliciting and interpreting thinking. The next time you’re looking to really understand what a young (or not so young!) person is thinking, try using phrases like:
- Tell me more…
- Can you say more about that?
- How did you arrive at that answer/decision?
- How does that resonate with you?
- What does _____ mean to you?
Finally, be sure to view this video of a math class where the teacher expertly gives students the ‘structure and space’ to struggle with the concept of even and odd numbers. What would have happened if she had just given the answer and moved on? What was gained through her patient approach of active listening, clarifying and probing?