This paper is from Session 1H: President’s session: challenges and opportunities for statistics education and the IASE
Full topic list
which comes under Topic 1: Data and context in statistics education: towards an evidence-based society

(Friday 16th, 16:30-18:00)

Ask good questions


  • Allan Rossman (California Polytechnic State University, United States)


Legend has it that when asked how to be a successful singer, Frank Sinatra replied: Sing good songs. My advice for successful teaching can be summarized in a similarly succinct manner: Ask good questions. What do I mean by this? (there’s a good question!) At least four things:
  • Ask good questions that lead students to develop their own understanding of key concepts.
  • Ask good assessment questions that promote student learning and focus attention on the skills and knowledge that you value.
  • Ask good questions that capture students’ interest, motivate them to study, and convince them of the material’s value.
  • Inspire students to ask good questions themselves, not only about the course but also about issues of interest to them in the “real world” that can be addressed using the intellectual tools they are learning.
And what makes a question “good”? (Another excellent question!) Good questions make students think, address important ideas, build on students’ knowledge or confront their misconceptions, challenge students without overwhelming them, motivate students to try to answer them, and inspire students to ask their own questions. In this talk I aim to convince you of the wisdom and importance of my thesis (namely, Ask Good Questions!), providing many examples from my teaching of statistics.

Footnote: Allan was recently awarded the Mathematical Association of America’s Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. This paper is his presentation at the award ceremony.