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What is Effective Questioning?

Effective questioning is a key tool in Assessment for learning strategies and

should be planned such that a range of responses are anticipated. Good

questions lead the learner on a journey in which there is a balance between

content (who, what, when) and process (how, why).

Why is Effective Questioning Important?

Effective questioning is a key aspect of the teaching and learning process, as the

kinds of questions we ask determine the level of thinking we develop.

Lessons that incorporate questions are more effective in raising attainment than

lessons which do not. Good questioning requires time for pupils to think and respond, and

the more learners are actively engaged in learning, the less scope there is to switch off.

Asking well structured/thought-out questions has a number of positive benefits within the

classroom including:

• Directing students’ thinking in a particular way

• Encouraging learners to think and actively construct their own schemas

• Structuring or guiding the learning of a task

• Allowing teachers to assess the learning of their students both in terms of what

they bring to the lesson and what they are taking from the lesson

• Identifying gaps and/or misconceptions in students’ Learning

• Providing immediate insight into where the learning of pupils has developed

• Helps students clarify their understanding of a topic

• Motivating students’ interest and engagement in a topic

• Providing opportunities for student learning through discussion

Types of Questions

• Closed questions - are useful in checking pupils’ memory and recall of facts.

Typically there is only one ‘right’ answer.

Who discovered penicillin? When was the battle of Flodden? What are the

characteristics of living things? However, closed questions can invite a game of

‘guess what the teacher is thinking’. Wrong responses risk humiliation in a public

arena and can create ‘performance anxiety’ which reduces the willingness of

some pupils to contribute ideas.

• Open questions - have more than one answer and typically promote higher

order thinking skills. When well designed, they enrich the learning experience by

encouraging links to be made by the learner from previous understanding to the

current situation. They can also enable teachers to check pupils’ knowledge and

understanding, to assess learners’ ability to apply acquired knowledge, and

generalize it to new contexts boosting problem solving skills and developing

Question Types

Do you know what kind of questions you ask most frequently? Research on the

questions teachers ask shows that about 60 percent require only recall of facts, 20

percent require students to think, and 20 percent are procedural in nature.

The major types of questions fall into four categories:

Managerial: questions which keep the classroom operations moving;

Rhetorical: questions used to emphasize a point or to reinforce an idea or


Closed: questions used to check retention or to focus thinking on a particular

point; and

Open: questions used to promote discussion or student interaction.

(Source: P. E. Blosser. (1975). How to Ask the Right Questions. National Science

Teachers Association)

Following is a list of question types you can use to analyze your questioning

strategies and develop a variety of questions to help students think.

I. Probing Questions

-series of questions which require students to go beyond the first response.

Subsequent teacher questions are formed on the basis of the student's response.


Ex: "What, exactly do you mean?"

"Will you please rephrase your statement?"

"Could you elaborate on that point?"

"What did you mean by the term. . .?"

Increasing Critical Awareness

Ex: "What are you assuming?"

"What are your reasons for thinking that is so?"

"Is that all there is to it?"

"How many questions are we trying to answer here?"

"How would an opponent of this point of view respond?"


Ex: "If this is true, what are the implications for . . . ?"

"How does John's answer relate to . . . ?"

"Can you relate this to . . . ?"

"Lets analyze that answer."


Ex: Teacher: "John, what's the square root of 94?"

John: "I don't know." Teacher: "Well, what's the square root of 100?"

John: "Ten." Teacher: "And the square root of 81?" John: "Nine."

Teacher: "Then what do we know about the square root of 94?"

John: "It's between nine and ten."

Redirecting to Another Student

Ex: Teacher: "What is the theme of Hemmingway's 'Old Man and the Sea'?"

Sam: "It's about an old man's courage in catching a fish."

Teacher: "Mary, do you agree?"

or: "Mary, do you think it's that simple?"

or: "Mary, can you elaborate on Sam's answer?"

II. Factual Questions

Questions which require the student to recall specific information s(he) has

previously learned. Often these use who, what, when, where, etc.


Simple Bits of Information

Ex. "Who was the leader of the Free French forces during W.W.II?"

"Who is the main character in Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone With The Wind?"

"During which century did Shakespeare live?"

"What is the Spanish verb meaning to run?"

Facts Organized into a Logical Order (Sequence of Events)

Ex. "What are the steps a bill goes through before it becomes a law?"
"How were the American and French forces able to bottle up Cornwall and the

British at Yorktown?"

"How did Robinson Crusoe react when he discovered footprints in the sand?"

"What is the commercial method for producing hydrochloric acid?"

III. Divergent Questions

Questions with no right or wrong answers, but which encourage exploration

of possibilities. Requires both concrete and abstract thinking to arrive at an

appropriate response

Ex. "What might happen if Congress passes a law preventing the manufacture and

sale of cigarettes in the United States?"

"How would the story have been different if John had been a tall, strong boy

instead of disabled?"

"If you were stuck on a desert island and the only tool you had was a screwdriver,

what use might you make of it?"

"In what ways would history have been changed had the Spanish Armada

defeated the English in 1588?

IV. Higher Order Questions

Questions which require students to figure out answers rather than

remember them. Requires generalizations related to facts in meaningful patterns.


Evaluation: Requires judgment, value or choice based upon comparing of

ideas or objects to established standards.

Ex: "Which of the two books do you believe contributed most to an understanding

of the Victorian era? Why?"

"Assuming equal resources, who would you rate as the most skillful general, Robert

E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant? Why?

Inference: Requires inductive or deductive reasoning

Inductive: Discovery of a general principle from a collection of specific facts.

Deductive: Logical operation in which the worth of a generalization is tested with

specific issues.

Ex: "We have examined the qualities these world leaders have in common. What

might we conclude, in general, about qualities necessary for leadership? Why?"

"If the temperature of the gas remains the same, but gas is taken to an altitude of

4000 feet higher, what happens to the pressure of the gas? Why?" (Deductive)

Comparison: Requires student to determine if ideas/objects are similar, dissimilar,

unrelated, or contradictory.

Ex: "Is a mussel the same thing as a clam?"

"What similarities and differences exist between Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and

Pericles' Funeral Oration?"

"What is the connection between Social Darwinism and the Supreme Court

actions of the late nineteenth century?"

Application: Requires student to use a concept or principle in a context different

from that in which she/he learned it.

Concept = Classification of events/objects that have common characteristics.

Principle = A relationship between two or more concepts.

Ex: "How was Gresham's Law demonstrated in the Weimer Republic of Germany?"

"Can you think of an example to fit this definition?"


Requires a student to use previously learned knowledge to solve a problem.

Students must see relationships between knowledge and the problem,

diagnose materials, situations, and environments, separate problems into

components parts, and relate parts to one another and the whole. This question

may generate answers the teacher hasn't anticipated.

Ex: "Suppose you grow up with the idea that dogs were bad. Out of the

many dogs you came into contact with, none bit you when you were quite young.

How would you react towards dogs now? Would the type, size, etc., of the dog

make any difference as to how you react? Explain the notion of prejudices using

this example."

V. Affective Questions

Questions which elicit expressions of attitude, values, or feelings of the


Ex: "How do you feel about that?"

"Is that important to you?"

"Would you like to . . . ?"

VI. Structuring Questions

Questions related to the setting in which learning is occurring.

Ex: "Are there any questions?

"Any further comments?"

"Is the assignment clear?"

"Would you repeat that?"

"Are we ready to continue?"

Effective Questioning Techniques

Bloom’s Higher Order of Thinking

 Knowledge

 Comprehension

 Application

 Analysis

 Synthesis

 Evaluation
APPLE strategy

Ask the Question: Questions should be prepared in your lesson plan in advance.

Pause: Let the learners think about what you are asking. Give the learners 3-5

seconds to think prior to getting a response.

Pick: Pick on a learner by name to answer the question. Do not always pick on the

first learner that raised his hand. Remember to ask the question first and then call

the student by name after.

Listen: Listen to the answer, make eye contact with the learner, provide effect

words* when the answer is provided. Mix your effect words, nothing sounds more

phony than an instructor that always says "very good" whenever a learner answers

a question.

Expound and explain the learner's answer. Generate a dialog based on the

learner's response. If the learner's response was incorrect, redirect the question

back to the other learners. "That's an interesting response, but not the one I was

looking for. Student B, can you help expand on this answer."