There are two types of people in this world: those who can fearlessly ask questions in class and those who shy away in the back hoping that they will just understand the material. Personally, I tend to shy away and pray that someone else will happen to not understand the same material as me and ask the question. There are times though when I can build my courage up to ask. We all hear teachers say, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no dumb questions.” But we all know what our peers can be like. I think that it is nice that our teachers try and provide a safe learning environment but it seems as though some people may never feel comfortable.
Allison M. Ryan, Margaret H. Gheen and Carol Midgley from the University of Michigan set out to find out it there was any relationship between how students acted in class and their willingness to get help for the material they don’t understand. Ryan, Gheen and Midgley set up longitudinal study containing 513 students across 63 different sixth grade math classes. A longitudinal study would follow these students for a long time, usually resulting in more solid results at the end. The students and teachers were given surveys to complete and assured that they would be kept confidential so as to avoid dishonestly. Their results showed that boys were less likely to ask for help when they were struggling. Overall though, the study concluded that students who were not confident in their work, were less likely to get help. Although students who were more confident in their work were more likely to ask for help. The researchers started looking in to ways that classroom environments could be changed in order to help everyone feel comfortable asking questions. They concluded that having a warm, friendly teacher will definitely help. In addition, making sure that the classroom does not have a competitive environment will enable the quiet ones to feel more confident asking questions.
I think this study was done very thoroughly and concluded some helpful information. They decided to only look at math classes which was a smart control. They said that there was no specific reason as to why they chose math. I wonder what would have happened if they had picked language arts classes or sciences classes. Would the results have changed? Or what would happen if they had studied college age students?
Christine Chin writes an interesting article discussing why it is important for students to ask questions. She points out that by asking questions, students are exploring the unknown and honing in the areas they don’t understand yet. Chin believes that it is important for students to know how to ask good questions. This isn’t up to just the students though! Teachers should be creating a welcoming environment in which they teach their students to ask good questions and encourage it.
Though none of this may change your mind in wanting to ask a question in class, just know that it really is beneficial to your learning. Some of us, myself included, may need to push ourselves to be bold and ask a question. We have to stop worrying about what others will think about us, chances are they had the same question! Our learning, in this situation, should come before our pride. So if you haven’t been to a post exam review session yet, I highly recommend going because that is a perfect environment to ask questions without feeling uncomfortable. All you have to do is raise your hand!
Study #1: psycnet.apa.org/journals/edu/90/3/528/