There are many types of questions that I have come to hear through my years as a student and an instructor. I am going to discuss some of them here and how the proverbial ‘we’ as an instructor can deal with it.
There are good questions, bad questions, lazy questions, and many other defining adjectives of questions. However, as the old phrase goes: “There is no such thing as a stupid question”.
This phrase is very definitive, and I think that there is a lot that can be said about it, and I will later on in this post.
First, the good questions. Good questions are the ones that have clearly been thought through, the student has taken the information that you have provided them and they have constructed a question that digs deeper into the question or leads you right into the next topic of the lesson, which helps solidify your decision on the order of your lesson. We can encourage these questions as much as possible to keep them coming.
Then there are the bad questions. I don’t like using this phrase because you should be encouraging the question process and there should not be a bad question, however, in this case I am saying that bad questions are ones that a student has asked in order to do one of a few things, 1. Have you go off track. This is a popular tactic amongst students lately, I have noticed an increased amount of questions in class that take the topic that we are learning and try and switch to something else in order to ‘pump the brakes’ on the class and provide some buffer time. When this is the motive behind a question, we need to make a note to keep on track and come back to this if there is time later, or offer to help the student with that question after class. 2. To provide a laughing break for the class. Sometimes a student asks a ‘bad question’ to get a rise out of the class or the instructor, we need to be sure that regardless of the question we try and keep the class calm and don’t give them a reason to think that this is something everyone should be doing.
A lazy question is the one that is asked right after you finish explaining how to do something. For instance: “And that is how you tie your shoe” and then the student asks you “But how do I tie my shoe?” These questions are lazy because the student was not listening when you were teaching this part. We need to not get upset with the student, and instead use this as a teaching opportunity, place it out to the class saying “No problem Johnny, we just talked about this Sally, can you tell Johnny how to tie his shoe?” This not only gives Johnny his answer, but also provides Sally an opportunity to prove that she understands and we get to ensure that our lesson is sticking.
Lastly the issue with There is no such thing as a stupid question, the main problem with this statement is that there are questions that should not be asked, I referred to these as bad questions, or questions that should have already be answered (lazy questions) however stupid is not the way they should be addressed. Instead we should provide students with the phrase, “You are not the only one that has the question” this helps confirm with them that they aren’t stupid (which is what the original phrase is trying to do)
All of these questions can be found in many classrooms around the world. We can make our lives easier by providing students with our knowledge and not making them feel as if their questions are not warranted.