For whatever reason, asking questions through class can actually be pretty tough. Maybe you feel embarrassed about not knowing the answer. Maybe you haven’t yet developed rapport with your teacher. Maybe it’s just not the culture that has developed in your circle of friends.
No matter the reason, if you want to advance your learning, question-asking is a really important skill to develop.
Why asking questions in class is important
At a very fundamental level, question-asking helps us learn. Questions can be used to clarify new content, to make connections between existing and new content, or to deepen understanding (or all three!). With that in mind, it’s a really powerful skill that often gets overlooked in the classroom.
If you don’t ask questions when something is unclear, stagnation is likely. You might also find that you start to lose motivation because you’re struggling to keep up - and when that happens, it’s very difficult to wrestle back the momentum. The best thing to do is to nip the uncertainty in the bud, and ask the questions that pop into your head.
Tips to facilitate ‘good’ questions
It may be true that there’s no such thing as a bad question, but there are some differences in the types of questions you might ask.
Potentially frustrating questions for teachers will be those that you should already know. For example, if your teacher has given instructions but you were talking to your friends instead of paying attention, and then you ask your teacher what you’re meant to be doing - well, you can see why that might irk them.
But other questions are terrific, particularly if you demonstrate that you have already given the question some thought. For example, instead of looking at a maths problem and straight away asking, “what’s the answer to this?”, first give it a go. Then you can go to your teacher armed with some context - “here is what I’ve tried so far, I don’t understand why this leads to that - could you please explain?”
It’s the same with English or with content-heavy subjects. Don’t just treat your teacher as a one-stop shop for the answers; instead try to work it out yourself, and then go to them with what you know if you’re still having trouble. Long-term, this strategy will actually benefit you a lot more, because you’re learning how to be an independent learner. Your teacher will be able to see this, too!
How to get started
Once you get started, asking questions is a bit like pushing over dominoes - once you make that first push, it’s difficult to stop the momentum. But making that first push can be challenging.
If that sounds like you, start with small steps. If you don’t want to ask your teacher something straight up, that’s okay - see if one of your friends or classmates can help. You never know - you might even end up starting a study group as a result!
If you have a question for your teacher but don’t want to ask it in front of the whole class, see them once the period is over, or at lunch, or after school. Chances are they’ll be more than happy to help!
By taking these small steps, you will, hopefully, start to see the benefit of question-asking. The benefits make it worthwhile trying to overcome the initial uncertainty!
Have a question, but not sure where to start? ATAR Notes also has a dedicated discussions section!