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and comprehensive answer, are perfectly legitimate in a written examination, because then there is leisure to answer them fully. But they are unsuited to oral questioning, which should always be brisk and pointed, and
should elicit one fact at a time. 4. Not re- Need I warn you against the use of that style of quiring
question in which the whole of what has to be said is affirmative said by the teacher, and the scholar is simply called on or negative to assent. Here is an extract from a nice little catechism
on 'good manners,' published in Scotland for the use of Board Schools :
“Q.-Is untruthfulness a very common vice in children?
Q.-Is untruthfulness or lying a low and degrading vice, repugnant to conscience, punishable by law, and universally abhorred and condemned?
Q.--And yet you say children are guilty of it, and greatly tempted to its commission.
Q.-Are there instances recorded in Scripture of this sin being instantly visited by the punishment of death?
Q.-Would you willingly associate with, or make a companion of, any boy or girl known to be a liar?
I need not say that there is no questioning here, notwithstanding the catechetical form of the book from which I take it. Little children say 'yes' and 'no' quite mechanically as they listen to these admirable sentiments. They know by the very tones of your voice what answer you expect; and they can give it without in the least
degree appropriating the idea conveyed by your questions. You may easily test this for yourself; and for the present, take my word for it that the power to give a mere affirmative or negative answer to your questions may co-exist with complete ignorance of the whole subject you are professing to teach.
And in a less degree, I would have you distrust all 5. Nor answers which consist of single words. You explain by
being a diagram or otherwise to little children, what the line answered
in single is which passes through the centre, and you say that it is
words. called a diameter. Some teachers would follow up this explanation by saying, “What do we call this line ?" A diameter. “What is it?" A diameter. Now the mere echo of the word may readily be given you in this way if you repeat the question a dozen times, and given by children who do not know what it means. The word diameter is part of a sentence.
“The line which passes through the centre of a circle or of a sphere is called a diameter.” And unless the children have appropriated this whole sentence, they have learned nothing. So the moment you have elicited the word in reply to one question, put a second question in another form, "What is a diameter?" This will make them give you the rest of the sentence. And then afterwards, Now what have we learned ? “That a diameter is, &c." Let us remember that every answer we get to an ordinary question is a fragment of a sentence; that it is only the sentence, and not the single word which conveys any meaning; and that the questioner who understands his art turns his question round until he gets from his scholars successively the other parts of the sentence and finally the whole. Indeed one of the best tests of a good question is the relation between the number of words employed by the teacher and the pupil respectively. If the teacher
does all the talking, and the pupil only responds with single words the questioning is bad. The great object should be with the minimum of your own words to draw
out the maximum of words and of thought from him. 6. Nor It will be obvious to you that questions should not
be put you could not answer yourself, or to which you which it
have no reasonable right to expect an answer; nor should reasonable they be repeated to those who cannot reply.
The an answer. Socratic elenchus is a mischievous expedient, if it is
so used as to worry children for knowledge which they do not possess.
For in this case you encourage the habit of guessing, which is clearly a bad habit. So all questions ending in the word “What,” and a large number of elliptical questions, in which the teacher makes an assertion, and then stops for the scholar to fill up the last word, are open to the same criticism. And as to the practice of suggesting the first syllable of a word to some one who cannot recollect it, it is one which would never be adopted at all by a skilled questioner.
In putting a series of questions, whether in the actual muity.
course of teaching, or for purposes of recapitulation and examination, great care should be taken to preserve continuity and order. Each question should grow out of the last answer, or be in some way logically connected with it. Consider the manner in which lawyers who practise at the bar employ the art of questioning. You read in the newspapers the evidence given at a trial, and are struck with the clearness and coherence of the story, especially when you know that it was given by an ignorant witness under all the bewildering excitement of publicity. But in fact, no such story as you read has been narrated. The lawyer has elicited fact after fact by a series of questions, and the reporter has given you the answers only. And the method and clearness, the
absence of all irrelevant matter which strike you so much in the evidence, are due not to the narrative powers of the witness, but to the skill of the barrister who knew exactly what he wanted, and in what order the facts should be evolved. Apply this test to your own work sometimes. Ask yourself when your scholars close their books and you question them on a reading lesson, how the series of answers would look if taken down by an unseen reporter, and printed out in full. Would they be orderly, would they be readable ? Would they cover the whole ground, and make a complete summary of what has been learned ? Unless your questions would stand this tęst, you have yet something to learn of the teacher's craft.
And with regard to the answers which either you fail The to get, or which when you get, you find to be wholly wrong, or partly wrong and partly right, a word or two must be said. If the answering is bad, either you have been asking for what was not known, or for what had been insufficiently explained, in which case you should go back and teach the subject again. Or there may be knowledge but no disposition to answer, in which case your discipline is bad, and you must fall back upon some way of recovering it. All random and foolish answering is rudeness, and should be dealt with as such. But the wrong answers which come from scholars who want to be right generally require to be met with a question differently shaped. Do not leap to the conclusion that because your question is not answered, nothing is known. Take your question back, alter its shape, or put a simpler
Perhaps after all, the thing you want to get at is known, but the difficulty is in the mere expression of it. You have been giving a lesson on the pressure of the atmosphere : and you say, "Why is boiling water not so hot on the top of a mountain as in a valley ?'
Now if the class is silent, it may be simply because this is a complex question, and a good deal might be said in answering it; and your pupil, though knowing something about it, does not know exactly where to begin. So you keep your question in mind, but for the moment withdraw it. You then ask in succession, “What happens when water begins to boil. What the bubbling means? What would have prevented the bubbling from beginning so soon? Greater pressure of air. What would have caused the bubbling to begin earlier ? Less pressure. Whether the water is capable of receiving more heat after it begins to bubble? “What is the state of the air up a mountain as compared with that below?” and so forth; and to all of these detailed questions you will probably get answers. And having got them, it may be well then to go back and to say, 'I asked you at first a hard question including all these particulars. Which of you can now give me a complete answer to that first question?' Do not be impatient, and hasten to answer your own questions, which of course is often the easiest thing to do. It is in the very act of drawing out the knowledge and thought of the scholars, and piecing it together, that you are bringing their intelligence into discipline. You have to shew them that much of what you want them to know, they may find in themselves, and that you can help them to find it. And you can only do this by cultivating very great variety in the form in which you put your questions, and by practising the art of resolving all complex questions which prove too difficult into a series of simple ones. When a good teacher receives a clumsy answer, which is partly wrong and partly right, or which though right in substance is wrong in form, he does not reject it; but either he accepts it as partially true, and stops, and after obtaining