Teachers ask around 400 questions every day, which adds up to a staggering 70,000 a year. Most of these are low cognitive questions and it’s important to consider how to make these questions more effective in developing pupils’ learning.
One way is to add variety to you questioning strategies. For example, randomly select pupils – there are many strategies (from old-skool lolly pops to Smartphone apps) to help with this – so the same pupils aren’t always answering questions. This also helps keep the class focused, as they don’t know who’s going to be chosen next.
Another idea is to vary the type of question you ask. Closed questions are fine when you’re testing recall, but open questions allow pupils to explore a range of possible answers. The use of the word ‘might’ in a question also achieves this, as it removes the idea that there’s a definitive right answer.
Well planned questions allow you to stretch all abilities in the class, as you can target questions at pupils based on their level. Involving more pupils by playing ‘volleyball’ with answers as you pass the responses around the room to other pupils is effective. As is using rubics like ABC (agree, build, challenge) to encourage students to build secondary responses to questions – s.
Perhaps, the most important strategy we can use is wait time. An impactful technique proposed by Mary Budd Rowe is where teachers simply ask a question, such as “What do you call it when an insect kills itself?” pause for at least three seconds, and then say a student’s name: “Sally.” By doing this, all the students will automatically be thinking about an answer and only after another child’s name is said will they sigh in relief because they were not chosen.
Student-created questioning is an effective technique. This rubric is based on Blooms and can help students to structure their questions. Use alongside a learning hook like a media clip, soundbite, image, graph etc.
Check out our College questioning toolkit here.