When is the Right time to ask a Question in an American Classroom

  1. When is the right time to ask a question in an American classroom? Watch others in your classes and notice the following.

Is the teacher talking when the students ask questions? *

Usually professors very welcome students to ask questions on the class, if they see some students raising their hands, they will kindly answer the question, even sometimes they don’t know the answers. Also, teachers will be quiet and listen carefully about the questions, and let them finish their questions. So teacher won’t talk when the students ask questions.


How do students indicate that they have a question to ask? *

Usually students will raise their hands to show they have a question right after the teacher finish, or sometimes while teacher is talking. In other words, students can ask questions anytime on the class when they have a question with raising hand. When students have more but simple questions, they can ask after class, if they have more they can go to the teacher’s office hour or make appointment with teacher to arrange a time to ask questions.

How does the teacher indicate that they are ready for questions? Does the teacher ask “Are there any questions?” Does the teacher pause and look up from notes or the board? *

The situation depend on the class or teachers. Because sometimes, this may be a lecture class, so there will be more than hundreds students in the class, sometimes students may ask questions, but not usual. The other time that it may be a small class, the teacher can pay more attention on the students, that he/she may pause after finishing an important point, look around to see whether there may have students have questions. Also, if it is a full-packed class, the teacher may not pause and keep talking about the content. To sum up, if the teacher are ready for questions, they will pause and look around at the whole class, asking whether anyone has questions.

What other signals does a teacher send to indicate that questions are invited? *

Teachers usually pause after a main point finished and look around the classroom to see whether students may have confused faces on them, if not, they will go on to the next point. Also if the students interrupt the teacher with raising hand, usually after the teachers finish his/ her sentences, they are willing to answer the questions.

How is this similar or different to your experiences in your home county? *

Teachers are all willing to answering the questions both in my country, China and US. However, the only difference are the expression of students. Chinese students don’t like asking questions, so the teacher will usually call students’ names to answer, but here in the US, students are more willing to raise their hands and ask questions.

  1. One of the most difficult things for students to understand is when an interview or an appointment with a teacher or professor is over. How do you know when you should leave? Watch a teacher and student in an interview or appointment, if possible, and see which of these are used to indicate the appointment is over. Look for the following:

If you cannot observe a teacher and student, perhaps you can watch a similar situation, such as a job interview, a meeting with an advisor, or an appointment with a doctor.

Does the teacher move noticeably in the chair-maybe closer to the desk or toward the door? *

As my observation, sometimes teachers may move their chair closer to the table and computer and move their attention to the other things, which I know this is the sign I can leave now.

Does the teacher say ” Well…” or “It has been nice talking to you” or “I think you understand now…”? *

Yes, they will say similar things like this, usually after I finish my question and there is a short time pause after we done the conversation. And this also means if I am done with my question I can leave now.

Does the teacher turn their attention to other business, such as papers on the desk or a schedule of appointments? *

Usually after I finish my questions and seems don’t have other questions to ask, the teacher may put her/ his attention on the computer, started their own business, which also means I can leave now.

Does the teacher move the chair back from the desk? *

I am not sure about this one, for usually after I finish my question I will end the conversation myself.


What have you learned from watching for questions? *

For most of the teachers really welcome students to ask their questions and they not only will try their best on the class, but also after the class both in China and the US. However, students are more active here in the US, that they are not afraid to ask the questions, which is the thing that I need to improve more.

What have you learned from watching appointments/interviews? *

For this part, I think there is usually a sign of body language that teachers will show you can leave now, which they will usually pay attention to their own work, or using the ending language to tell you. And this is the cultural thing that I learned after I come to the US which is very interesting and I think I have got used to this way.