Video Transcript 3

The previous video looked at questions to establish friendly relationships and questions to manage the classroom. The third and most important types of question are pedagogic questions. These are questions aimed at helping students understand and learn. The most important functions of pedagogic questions are: Firstly, to check existing knowledge of the content to be taught. For example: "How do you calculate the volume of a cylinder?"

The second function of pedagogic questions is to check knowledge and understanding of previously taught content. So for example, "Who remembers the name of the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach?"

A third kind of pedagogic question leads students to an understanding of a complex idea, system or process. An example would be the series of questions that lead step-by-step to the solution of mathematics problem such as working out the formula for calculating the hypotenuse of a right triangle.

And a last type of question functions to stimulate student thought and discussion. For example:

"Why are so many people interested in the lives of celebrities such as sports or film stars?"

So we have seen examples of the different types of pedagogic question. Now, let's consider other issues for the teacher to bear in mind. Firstly, it is important that when teachers ask this kind of question they are aware of how difficult it will be to answer. Obviously, if the language of the question is too hard for an ESL student to understand, then it will be impossible to answer. We'll cover ways that you can improve the comprehensibility of your question later, so for now we will assume that the student has understood the question. And need to ask: "How can we assess if it will be relatively easy or difficult to answer?"

So, you will recognise these questions from the pre-videos survey page in which you were asked to rate questions about the Russian Revolution as harder or easier. Questions like those on the left are easier than the questions on the right, mainly because the answer can be very short and in many cases is asking for a single fact. So not very much English is required for the answer. Indeed the last one does not even require a spoken response, but simply a gesture.

The questions on the right require a much fuller answer, and so are more difficult for ESL students. As you can see from the column titles, the easier questions are often called closed questions or convergent questions, because they converge on one possible answer. The more difficult questions are open and permit multiple or divergent answers.

Here are some of the other questions from the survey, categorized by Open or Closed. Pause the video if you want to analyse why the Closed questions are easier to answer than the Open ones. In the next video you will put some of the theory about classroom questions, particularly pedagogic questions, into practice.