The process of asking questions is an important learning activity that helps students to clarify and validate information being presented. Question box is a method of individualizing instruction which has been proven to enhance learning. Questions related to sexuality may seem more challenging or create discomfort for educators. One of the challenges facing teachers discussing human sexuality in the classroom is dealing effectively with questions from students.
Advantages of the Question Box
- Anonymity provides a way for students to ask questions related to sexuality without risking embarrassment or self-consciousness.
- Increased questions will increase the number of learning opportunities for the class.
- Time between lessons allows teachers to prepare an answer ahead of time and to avoid being caught off guard.
- Capitalizing on “teachable moments” is effective and can enrich the classroom experience.
This technique is most effectively utilized in classrooms where teachers encourage trust, comfort, and where ground rules are in place.
The procedure is simple, but important to follow in detail.
1. Hand out identical slips of paper to each student (a small notepad works well).
2. Ask the students to write down any questions.
3. In order to prevent those with pressing questions from feeling uncomfortable, all students should write something on their slip of paper. If they don’t have questions, encourage them to write feedback about how the class is progressing, or to write “no comment”.
4. Pass around a container (e.g. a shoebox with a “mail slot” in the lid). Tell the students that you will answer the questions at the beginning of the next class. This will give you time to research and prepare answers and to rephrase questions containing slang or shock terms.
Important Information About Feedback
- Research indicates that for feedback to be effective it should always be given in a timely manner. Once a week is reasonable for responding to question box questions.
- Appropriate feedback is complete, accurate and considers the age and developmental stage of the students.
- The anonymous nature of the question box may enable a student struggling with personal issues to raise these issues safely. Teachers can provide support to students, and in some cases teachers are legally obligated to refer students.
Tips on Answering Question Box Questions
Group together common questions. Tell the class “there were many questions about… so I am addressing them all in this answer”. This saves processing time and possible duplication. It also normalizes the question.
Acknowledge respectfully those questions that you could not understand or that seem to be “off topic”. State “there were a few questions that I could not read,” or “there were a few questions that don’t seem to relate to our course content.” Conclude by saying, “Please see me individually if you don’t hear your questions answered today.”
Use proper terminology whenever possible, e.g., “There’s a question here about ‘jerking off’. Lots of people have questions about masturbation…” Although slang terms are sometimes used it is important to correct the slang term with the proper term. It is important to also acknowledge the slang term that is used. This way students who perhaps do not know the proper term will be able to match up the proper term with the slang term.
Defer lengthy discussions concerning questions that relate to future course content. Try to answer questions briefly, and indicate that the topic will be discussed further during an upcoming lesson, e.g., “There are some questions about contraception which we will be discussing next class. If you still have a question, or don’t understand, you can re-submit your question then.”
Defer a question and find the correct/current information you require to answer it. It is OK to say, “I don’t know for sure, but will try to find out and get back to you next class.”