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Eliciting and Interpreting Student Thinking

Fall 2018

Kenneth Plont

Claim: my proficiency in asking students effective questions when working on individual

learning and understanding has developed. This is evident throughout my interaction with three

students outside of a classroom in October 2018. By asking students: “how do we know that?”

and “what do you mean? Can you elaborate” and asking focused questions to probe for deeper

understanding and critical thought, I allow myself to gain insight into student’s thinking while

also giving the student an opportunity to organize their thinking and articulate their thoughts

surrounding facts and concepts that we are learning about together in the classroom.

Evidence and reasoning:

When meeting one-on-one with one particular male student, a 7th grader from my 4th period

class, I was asking him about the different systems of economies that we see worldwide. We’ve

been studying this for a week or so now. I asked him the following questions: “how do you know

that North Korea is a command economy?” and “what does that mean to you? How do you

know Kim Jung Un runs a command economy” and he replied with “because he’s a dictator, he

has total control of the economy and government and it’s not like we have here.” Probing for

deeper conceptual and factual understanding with this one student, I asked him: “what do you

mean that it’s different from here? Can you elaborate”, and this student said: “because our

government does not control businesses all the time.” So, I asked: “when does the government

control the economy here?” Anyways, the point is that my question strategies have greatly

improved since fall 2017 and this allows for myself to assess further student understanding of
their connections between facts and concepts, as well as allowing the students to present their

thinking without interference of myself, other than generating questions that facilitate expression

of their understanding.

One final example of meeting with a student one-on-one, a female 7th grader from my

5th period class also presents my ability to ask engaging and more effective questions to guide

learning and understanding with this student. When discussing the different types of economies,

this conversation was focused on distinguishing between mixed and market economies,

something that many students have been struggling with throughout the duration of this

economics unit for seventh grade. When she said: “a mixed economy is where people go to a

market and buy somethings”, I tried to guide her back to a more clear way of thinking about the

distinction between the two economies. I asked her: “well, is a market economy referring to an

actual market place where people go buy food and clothes and things? Is that what we talked

about in class.” The student paused and thought deeply for a good minute or so. When she

couldn’t answer, I asked her: “well, we have two different types of economies. Remember that

lesson about Nike and we said sometimes (emphasis on this word in my speaking) the

government here gets involved in telling Nike not too charge too much for their shoes, but in a

market economy they could charge whatever they want?” The student nodded and said: “so a

mixed economy is where the government is sometimes involved and the market is when the

government is not.” By using these guiding and engaging questions, the student was able to

relate authentically to a real-world example (Nike) and relate back to a lesson a few days prior.

This demonstrates my proficiency in question strategies and eliciting and understanding student

thinking in order to help them build enduring understanding of challenging concepts such as

this.