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Questioning Techniques in Adult Learning

Updated July 20, 2017

When teaching adults, there are many questioning techniques you can use in the classroom to ensure you are reaching learners of all abilities and still presenting a challenging atmosphere. Questioning techniques such as divergent questions and Bloom's higher levels of questioning, evaluation and synthesis, are some. In addition, an appropriate strategy to employ in the classroom would be the Socratic method, which guides learners into their goals. Adult learners have a wide range of critical-thinking skills, which is why you want to approach your students in this way and focus on enhancing their already developed, higher-order thinking skills.

Socratic Method

Guide your students to the correct answer by presenting them with questions that require them to evaluate their responses. For instance, if your student asked, "Wasn't 'Leaves of Grass' Walt Whitman's desperate attempt to exalt himself among other poets?" You could respond, "What do we know about the poems contained in the book? Do you think Whitman believes he was better than everyone else? Can you give me an example of a poem that might allude to that?" These questions avoid a simple yes or no answer and instead put the learning back on the student. Adult students would benefit from this questioning technique because they are already more adept at critical thinking than younger learners.

Evalution Questioning

According to Bloom's, each level of questioning comes with its own verb set that is useful when designing lessons, but the verbs also can be used when asking questions of your students. The evaluation level contains verbs such as evaluate, choose, estimate and judge. Build questions around these verbs so your focus is on higher-order thinking, and your adult students can feel challenged in the classroom. For example you can ask, "How does Kate Chopin use symbolism in 'The Awakening?' " Evaluate her use of symbols by creating a T-chart for your responses.

Synthesis Questioning

Ask your adult learns questions based on their ability to synthesise ideas. Verbs used in this type of questioning include design, hypothesise, support, schematise and write. Be sure you phrase your question clearly. For example, you could ask something like, "What kind of evidence can be found in the text that would support your position?"

Divergent Questioning

These are the questions that lead to other questions and in the process allow students to explore different outcomes and possibilities, thereby presenting them with a bulk of information they can disseminate and evaluate based on their own knowledge and understanding. For example, you could ask, "In Mark Twain's 'Huckleberry Finn,' what might have happened if Huck did not recognise Jim as a person and instead kept associating him as the other?"

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About the Author

Lorraine Ramirez received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas A&M International University. While teaching English at the secondary level, she writes education articles that deal with the joys and pains of teaching and uses her experiences in the classroom as her primary source of inspiration and reflection.