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Grade Smarter

An Easy Strategy to Get Students to Ask Questions in Class

About a week ago, I stumbled upon an old article from FacultyFocus that discussed how instructors could get students to ask more questions in class. While reading this, it brought flashbacks of being in a class where a professor or a teaching assistant would ask us if anyone had questions. Instead of students raising their hand, all we would hear were crickets. Simply put, students avoid asking questions in class.

I figured students didn’t ask questions either because they understood the material or they were too shy to be in the spotlight. Personally, I was afraid to ask questions in front of the whole class.

I guess my classmates were reluctant to ask questions too.  Because after class, I would see the predictable, massive line of students waiting to ask their individual questions. Don’t get me wrong; it’s understandable to ask questions that only pertain to you. But, providing feedback to students becomes inefficient when an instructor has to repeat the same answer to the same question from multiple students.

The Simple Trick

Reading this article, the author mentions a simple trick of using index cards in her class of 22-25 students. She asks students if they have any questions or concerns about the course and lets students write them anonymously on an index card. Once the teacher receives all the index cards, she then answers the questions in front of the whole class.

I believe the index card activity solves a few things:

  • First, those who are afraid to ask questions are now confident to ask them. For those who are introverts, like me, writing questions on an index card takes the pressure off from public speaking. 
  • Second, teachers can gauge students’ understanding of the lesson during class. If students are asking the same kind of questions, then the instructor might want to explain the topic further.

Opinion on the Index Card Trick

Personally, I think using index cards to ask questions and increase classroom engagement is an excellent idea, especially for quieter students like me. In my four years at UC Irvine, I only had one class that used this strategy. During that time, the index card trick not only alleviated my anxieties but also allowed me to formulate better questions. With the index cards, I also benefitted from the topics of other students. Often, my classmates brought up issues that I might not have have considered.

Clearly, there are other tips and tricks to get students to ask questions in class. Some might be more effective. However, doing the index card strategy in class can go along way.

Questions for Instructors: How do you get students to ask questions in class?



Happy grading from GradeHub!

Lea from GradeHub
Lea Ibalio is a senior majoring in business at the University of California, Irvine and this year’s marketing intern at GradeHub.