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Applying Rosenshine to the Computing Classroom: Principle Three

Written By: Keith Gage
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Principle 3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students: Questions help students practice new information and connect new material to their prior learning.

Rosenshine’s (2012) third principle looks at the amount of questioning that
we carry out within the lesson. If we are trying to determine how much
pupils know, then it is necessary to question them frequently to ensure
their concept of the subject material is correct. Only questioning the children occasionally throughout a lesson opens the potential for cracks to
develop within their concept of what they understand and may potentially
lead them to make false assumptions about what they have learnt as well
as what follows.

Remembering to question regularly is something that might be missed in the inertia of a lesson. To ensure that this is not the case, I ensure that questions are built into my planning and incorporate these directly into my PowerPoint slides as a minimum to work from. I also ensure that hinge questions are inserted at the most pertinent point, to ensure that we do not
continue on to new topics that rely on an understanding of what has already been taught within the lesson, without that understanding being secure.

Computer science is also a subject which is difficult for many pupils to grasp. However some pupils arrive to their first lesson with us, already competent with a variety of software and hardware. Our tendency might be to focus our questioning on these experienced students, but instead I try to develop an environment where participation is always seen as positive
for everyone.

At a simplistic level, I ensure that incorrect answers are still seen positively within the class. If a pupil responds incorrectly, I try to use techniques such as asking another pupil, who knows the answer, to help the other pupil in answering. The pupil who understands, deepens their answer by constructing a new response, which also helps the rest of the class who might also have struggled to respond if they had been asked.

I also try to not accept an answer of ‘I don’t know’ and will present the child with simpler or rephrased questions at a level that builds on their existing understanding to guide them in to providing the correct answer. Additionally, in coding, syntax and understanding might be easy to recall, but we need to ensure that pupils can use the facts in different scenarios. We seek to ensure that they can describe the process in respect of how they got to the answer whenever they answer. This ensures that pupils who get the answer right, did not just do so as they guessed correctly, but because they actually know the reasoning why they have given that answer.

Questioning through technology

When I started teaching, it became obvious to me that questioning was an essential way to determine the understanding of the class particularly when coding. It would be pointless attempting to move on to more complex coding techniques unless your pupils fully understand what has been taught so far. The target is to ensure that all pupils within the class have
achieved this understanding, but asking each pupil individually is very difficult and time consuming. I believed that one possible method might be to utilise the technology in front of the students to help in this process.

Most recently within my own practice I created individual online spreadsheets for each pupil. The sheet was a relatively simple design with a large field for them to enter their answer and a question that would appear at the top. All of the pupils sheets were linked to my own teacher sheet, using the inbuilt functions within the application, enabling me to automatically display a question on each of the students sheets and for them to type their reply. As they answered, a summary sheet would anonymously show how many students were yet to respond, without the actual answer shown. Additionally, by using a pre-made question bank and with each student answering on their own sheet, questions could be translated or rephrased to meet their individual needs. Other online questioning resources such as Kahoot provide similar analysis of the students’ answers.

This facilitated three things:
● firstly, I expected a reply from all students and was able to identify who was still left to respond;
● secondly, I could anonymously display all the pupils’ responses when I was happy with what had been entered (a different view within the application allowed only myself to see the response of each named pupil);
● and thirdly, those who I knew would need additional support could be provided it without being singled out within the lesson.

This generated an environment within the classroom in which students understood that all would need to participate in responding and also that other children in the classroom might also not respond correctly. If a large proportion of the students were unable to answer the question, then it would also highlight my need to revisit the topic.

Using a variety of different technologies alongside traditional verbal methods enables students to participate and answer in a number of ways and gives as many chances to participate in the lesson as possible, whilst also providing the teacher with a better perspective on the progress the
class is making as a whole.

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