Call Us: 800-299-3770 Fax: 508-651-2674

Active learning is not "Q&A Teaching"

Petra Claflin, Manager of Digital Media and head blogger for @YESPrep Public Schools, recently wrote about the “Trap of Q&A teaching.”  She admits she’s done it herself.  It looks something like this:

Teacher: I’m now going to model how to solve this type of problem. First I set up my equation. Now, who thinks they have an idea of what I should do next?

(30 seconds waiting for hands)

First student: Solve for x?

Teacher: Well, before that. You’re on the right track, but what would I do first?

Second student: Get the x by itself?

Teacher: No, not quite. What I’m going to do first is…

The trouble, Claflin explains, “is that the end result is disjointed instruction possibly including wrong information, since students were asked to contribute aloud before they were ready…. Direct instruction could take 30 minutes when it was supposed to take ten.”  To avoid this trap, Petra Claflin suggests:

  • Announce your intention. “Tell students that you’re teaching a model and will check for understanding at the end.
  • Raise the stakes. “Give students time to figure it out by themselves. This makes them interested to see if your explanation comports with their solutions.
  • Rehearse the lesson. “When you script and practice what you’re going to say, you give yourself the opportunity to really make sure that you’re putting that concept or skill into words, and doing it succinctly.”
  • Watch the clock. “If you’ve been talking for 15 minutes and you’re still not done, 90 percent of the time you probably won’t make things any clearer by talking any longer,” she says. “So just stop and let your students try the task with their groups or partners.”
  • Watch yourself teach. “We often make assumptions about our teaching and only realize some of our tendencies when we actually see ourselves doing them.”

“Keeping your instruction clear, succinct, and as short as possible is essential for ensuring that students are spending as much time as possible grappling with the concept and practicing new skills,” she concludes.

 “Avoiding the Trap of ‘Q & A’ Teaching” by Petra Claflin in Edutopia, March 26, 2014,

Please share your thoughts!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *