Highland Learning and Teaching Toolkit

 Home | Inclusive & Enjoyable | Flexible  | Whole Learner | Active Citizens | Multiple Intelligence

| About this Toolkit | Parents | Practical Strategies SMT | Feedback | Site Map | Search

Link to Highland Council Website

Learning and Teaching should be Inclusive and Enjoyable:

Questioning

 

 

Questioning is a key aspect of the teaching and learning process.   There is evidence that teachers can improve their use of questions, focusing on types of questions and strategies for using them.   Questions should draw pupils into the learning process as well as checking on acquisition of knowledge.

Points Arising from Research
 
bullet

Improving questioning was one of the keys to raising attainment identified by Black and Wiliam in Inside the Black Box (see Formative Assessment)

bullet

Teachers ask 300-400 questions per day (though many of these are procedural

bullet

Most teachers’ questions are lower-order. Increasing higher-order questions to around 50% of the total can raise attainment and improve pupil attitudes

bullet

Most teachers’ questions are answered in less than a second, often by the teacher him- or herself. Increasing wait time to 3 seconds for lower order questions and 10 seconds for higher order ones improves the number and quality of answers

bullet

Pupils fear being made to look silly and this inhibits them in answering

bullet

The importance of pupils articulating ideas themselves means that it is important to try to get them to ask questions

bullet

Low ability and younger children benefit from questions after looking at source material; high ability pupils benefit from being given questions before source material

bullet

When pupils ask questions this can lead to more talk, higher-level thinking and can give social benefits
 

Key Elements of Questioning
 
Purpose of question:

bullet

They can help the teacher gauge how effectively pupils are learning

bullet

They can assist the teacher in forward planning

bullet

They can be used to involve pupils in on-going classwork

bullet

They can give pupils opportunities to articulate their understanding

bullet

They should give opportunities for successful answers, but should also provide challenge

bullet

Pupils’ communication skills can be improved

bullet

Social skills can also be improved

bullet

Pupils can be invited to ask questions themselves, which can lead to more sophisticated discussions

bullet

Pupils can be led to question their own learning and enter the realms of metacognition (reflecting on the learning process), with wide-ranging benefits

Types of questions:

bullet

Lower-order questions may simply call for a memorised fact; higher-order ones will invite the pupil to explore an idea and give a more expansive answer

bullet

Closed questions call for a simple factual response and may often be answered by “Yes” or “No”; open questions invite a more extensive response, often without “rightness” or “wrongness” being an issue

bullet

There are many different ways of categorising types of questions, with Socratic questioning being a specific example. This promotes the idea that pupils should be encouraged to explore, to consider reasons and evidence, to project forward to consider implications/consequences etc

bullet

One much-used system of analysing questions is through Bloom’s Taxonomy...

Bloom’s taxonomy:

 
bullet

This divides types of learning into what may be seen as an ascending hierarchy:
 

  • Knowledge (recall of factual information)

  • Comprehension (showing understanding of the information recalled)

  • Application (consideration of practical relevance of information)

  • Analysis (ability to investigate elements of the information)

  • Evaluation (ability to make judgements about the nature of information)

  • Synthesis (using information to move forward in a creative way)
     

bullet

Questions can be devised to cover these six areas in the teaching process

bullet

This process allows for consideration of differentiation in formulation of questions.   Broadly, more able pupils should be encouraged to explore the higher levels

bullet

In the planning process, the teacher may consider different types of questions for the different types of learning

Teacher self-evaluation:

bullet

It is believed to be important that teachers take stock of their use of questions

bullet

How many questions do we ask?

bullet

How many lower-order ones do we ask?

bullet

How many higher-order?

bullet

What wait time do we give? (i.e. time allowed for a pupil to answer)

bullet

How do we respond to pupils’ responses?

bullet

To what extent do we encourage pupils to formulate their own questions?

bullet

Do we wait for full attention from the class before asking a question?

bullet

How often do we answer questions ourselves?

bullet

How many different pupils answer questions?

bullet

Are certain pupils invited to answer repeatedly? Do some seldom/never answer?

bullet

How else do we invite responses, apart from direct questions?

Practical strategies:

bullet

Invite pupils to make up questions about a topic before it has been taught,  promoting a sense of enquiry

bullet

Use a “Question Wall” or “Question Box” where pupils can put questions which occur as a block of work is in progress

bullet

When a pupil answers, rather than commenting, invite another pupil to

bullet

Set up pairs or groups to answer more difficult questions

bullet

Don’t allow a “hands up” approach. Instead, nominate pupils to answer

bullet

Set homework of returning the next day with a question

bullet

Have pupils make up questions for their peers on work in hand

bullet

Give marks for good questions rather than good answers

bullet

When a question is proving difficult, ask a pupil to ask the question again

bullet

For a difficult question, have pupils write answers prior to class discussion of them

bullet

When you ask a pupil a question, don’t move towards the pupil, but move away
so that the rest of the class feels involved

bullet

Use the recapping at the end of the lesson to exploit question types

bullet

Similarly in the review session at the beginning of the next lesson

bullet

Promote the idea of asking questions through internet search engines

bullet

Invite a pupil to teach part of a lesson, including appropriate questions

bullet

When a question is proving difficult, ask a pupil to ask the question again

bullet

For a difficult question, have pupils write answers prior to class discussion of them

bullet

Invite a pupil to teach part of a lesson, including appropriate questions
 

Reflection and Discussion

Do you feel that your use of questioning is varied and effective?

Are there ways in which you could consider developing your use of questions?
 

Some Activities Relating To the Issue of Approaches to Questioning

Key element

Objective

Action

 

Some examples and suggestions

Purpose of Questioning Pupils can be invited to ask questions themselves

Have groups work on different, narrowly focused topics and make up questions for the rest of the class.   Other groups then discuss the questions.

Types of Questions Higher-order questions will invite the pupil to explore an idea and give a more expansive answer.

Ask pupils (groups?) to consider questions of an extremely "woolly" nature, to which you don't have an answer yourself.   Make clear that you don't "know the answer" and then have the class consider different responses.

Bloom's Taxonomy Differentiation in formulation of questions.

In planning a block of work, write down questions which would relate to each of the six areas , trying to ensure that there is a question appropriate for every level of ability in the class.

Teacher Self-Evaluation It is believed to be important that teachers take stock of their use of questions.

Have a colleague observe a lesson with a checklist of things you wish to consider.    Your colleague would record data relating to these things in an objective way.   Reciprocate.

Practical Strategies When a question is proving difficult, ask a pupil to ask the question again.

This may prove difficult, suggesting that the class has not understood the question, so invite discussion of where the problem lies.

Selected References


Further Reading

Accelerated Learning in Practice by Alistair Smith, Network Educational Press; ISBN 1-855390485
Has a section giving practical suggestions as to how Bloom’s Taxonomy can relate to classroom practice.

Lessons are for Learning by Mike Hughes, Network Educational Press; ISBN 1-855390388
Has a section on questioning techniques.
 


Websites

The following web sites contain material related to questioning and suggest further internet exploration:

http://tep.uoregon.edu/services/newsletter/year93-94/issue18/questions.html


Try internet searches relating to the following schemes for considering questioning:

Thinkers Keys by Tony Ryan

Question Matrix by Chuck Weiderhold

Divergent Thinking Model by Wilson and Wing Jan

Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono

Learning and Teaching Scotland have sponsored work relating to questioning as part of their Assessment is for Learning programme and this has resulted in interesting case studies.  The home web site address for this material is as follows, but material is due to appear in the public domain in a more accessible form than is the case at the time of writing.
www.ltscotland.org.uk/assess/


webmaster
 

Last updated 20/08/2010
© Highland Council Education, Culture and Sport Service

Highland Schools Virtual Library