Most students have been in a classroom setting where they wished they hadn’t asked a question or added to the discussion. Maybe the answer was obvious or the question seemed unrelated – “out in left field,” so to speak. It takes strength to raise your hand in class and ask questions. More often than not, other students have similar questions. What about those students who don’t ask questions in class? How or are they impacted if they do not ask questions? Make sure to check out our video on the same topic. First, let’s examine reasons why students don’t ask questions in class, then discuss the consequences of not asking questions, and finally what teachers can do to encourage students to ask questions.
Reasons some students do not ask questions in class
Shyness: One of the most obvious reasons a student may not volunteer to raise his or her hand with a question is because the person is shy. Shyness can be bitterly difficult for many students. One student described the being shy at school this way: “I think if I had not been painfully shy…then I would have done a lot better in school. I would have had a clear, open mind to understand things better, and I would have had the courage to participate more and ask questions.”
Fear of peers: Other students are self-conscious and worry about what their peers will think if they ask questions of the teacher. Peer friendships and fitting in is especially important as students enter teenage years.
Fear of appearing dumb: No one wants to look foolish. Often times the academic material appears unfamiliar; although it has been previously taught, it can suddenly resemble a foreign language. So, the student fears he or she will appear unintelligent or as if he or she wasn’t paying attention.
Difficulty forming the question: Other times a student may struggle to formulate the question. Students in the process of learning English may be hesitant and unclear about how to structure the sentence grammatically. Students who participate in speech therapy may find it challenging to form the words properly.
Gaps in knowledge: The most obvious consequence of students failing to speak up and ask questions is the resulting gaps in knowledge. Hart Research Associates distributed a survey to faculty members to determine the readiness of entering college students. Glaring gaps in the knowledge of students were discovered. Just 4 percent of faculty members of two-year colleges were able to rate incoming students as being “most generally able to do what is expected.” The percentage for the four-year college was at 12 percent.
Reinforces bad habit for future learning: A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” If students continually resort to retreating when they have a question, then over time they will develop the habit of not asking when it is necessary. This bad habit may follow them to college and the workplace. Finding a way to break past it now is necessary.
Hinders self-esteem: Students who are missing chunks of information due to their own refusal to ask questions likely feel low self-esteem. They know they should be and could be obtaining the information.
Solutions for teachers
Teachers have a great responsibility to draw students out of their shell and nurture the love of learning that is inherent within every person. Teachers teach because they have a passion for their students and imparting knowledge to them. So, what can teachers do when students won’t ask questions due to various reason? Here are 3 ideas listed below for teachers.
- Make asking questions like a “game”. Everyone gets to ask a question throughout the week. Advise the students who will be called on to ask their question a day in advance – that way there are no surprises, which would only frighten a shy student. Questions, then, become commonplace.
- Organize group questions. Put students in groups and have them all brainstorm together to come up with questions for the teacher or for the other groups. If they ask the questions to the other group, you can make this into a game or at the very least it is an excellent way for them to study and quiz one another. Studies show that students learn better when having fun.
- Create a question box for students to place their questions in and the teacher reads one or two a day as time permits. You could make this an anonymous box. The student is still having pertinent questions answered and not getting stressed over doing it verbally. Although, a combination of all of the above ideas would work most effectively.
Students who do not ask questions are at risk for losing valuable academic information that is relevant to their future success. As teachers work closely with students in creative ways, these students can be identified and helped. At the Tenney School, we value education and believe in the inherent joy of learning. We strive to provide children with an excellent one-on-one environment in which to thrive. If you would like to discuss this topic, please contact us today!