Research Cycle

 The Question Mark

 Vol 1|No 6|May|2005
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Assessing Growth
in Questioning

By Jamie McKenzie
© 2005 Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

About the author.

This article is Chapter 22 of Jamie McKenzie's new book, Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn. Click here for more information. Click here to order your copy.

Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter. This is what makes the trade of historian so attractive.

W. R. Inge (1860-1954)

How do we know if teachers and students are employing questions in more powerful ways? Unfortunately, some schools forget to design data collection to help steer a program forward. Gathering data provides a basis for adjusting, pruning, expanding and improving program strategies, while a lack of data can sustain denial, delusion and waste.

There are at least two strategies worth considering.

Informal Surveys

Schools can make use of informal surveys such as the two QDP (Questioning Daily Practice) surveys included in Appendix A and Appendix B of this book to measure student and teacher reports of questioning activities over time.

These two surveys were developed with an eye toward judging what Michael Fullan has called “daily practice.” We hope to see what kinds of pedagogy teachers are employing and we hope to discover whether or not students are being challenged to employ powerful questioning strategies on a daily basis.

While developed for use with upper elementary school, middle school and high school students, the items may be adjusted by school teachers and schools for use with other age students. The surveys may not be republished by any other agencies or corporations without explicit permission from this author.

It is recommended that the QDP be done several times with both students and teachers during the first year of a program so as to track growth over the course of time. In subsequent years, an annual assessment will probably suffice to provide a portrait of change.

Formal Instruments

Schools may employ more rigorous and formal instruments to measure the growth of actual student thinking skills and problem-solving abilities expected to improve as a result of sustained attention to questioning and wondering.

A list of such tests prepared by Robert H. Ennis (An Annotated List of Critical thinking Tests) can be found on line at this URL:

Ennis is the author of one test battery aimed at Grades 4-14 that the author of this book used productively while a superintendent in New Jersey, but there are several dozen on his list worth investigating and considering.

The Ennis test is the Cornell Critical thinking Test, Level X (1985), by Robert H. Ennis and Jason Millman. The Critical thinking Company at http://www.critical (formerly Midwest Publications), PO Box 448, Pacific Grove, CA 93950.  Multiple-choice, sections on induction, credibility, observation, deduction, and assumption identification.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie .

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