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10 effective ways to improve your questioning in the classroom

Posted by Rosie Neill on November 6, 2015

Alex Quigley explores how you can improve questioning in the classroom, by creating a ‘culture of inquiry’ that opens the minds of your students and provokes truly independent thought.

1. ‘Questioning Monitor’

Involve students in the evaluation and reflection of the classroom questioning process by choosing a monitor to be responsible for tracking how many questions are: teacher or student, open or closed, factual or conceptual.

This shows students that you want to improve the quality of your questioning and that of theirs too.


2. ‘Hinge Point Questions’

These questions can be really useful for formative assessment as they mean the lesson can be taken in at least two different directions, depending on how well the students understand what has been taught so far.


3. ‘Socratic Questioning & Socratic Circles’

These six steps of questioning, inspired by Greek philosopher Socrates, will create a critical atmosphere in your classroom that probes thinking and gets students questioning in a structured way. See details of each step here.


4. ‘Thunks

Initiate deeper thinking by asking seemingly simple questions that open up a complex array of higher order thinking.

Alex’s examples of a thunk include: “If I ask if I can steal your pen and you say yes, is that stealing?” and “Can I ever step on the same beach twice?”


5. ‘Key Questions as Learning Objectives’

Initiate thinking and group discussion that engages students in their prospective learning by starting the lesson with one question that gets them thinking about what they’re going to learn.


6. ‘If this is the Answer... What is the Question?’

Spark the inquisitiveness of your students by reversing the standard question and answer dichotomy.


7. ‘Just One More Question...’

Encourage your students to work collaboratively in groups to create an array of quality questions then give them a series of challenging question stems to broaden their range of questions. Stems include: ‘What if...?’, ‘Suppose we knew...?’ and ‘What would change if...?’


8. ‘Pose-Pause-Pounce-Bounce’

First pose a question to the class, pause, pounce on one student for an answer and then bounce that student’s response to another student.

Ensure you give sufficient time at the ‘pause’ point, as research has shown that the quality of responses and the confidence levels of students increase with even a short amount of thinking time.


9. ‘Question Continuum’ secondary school effective questioning

In pairs or groups, students devise questions on a given topic.
Next, a visible continuum is created, either on the whiteboard or a display board.

A horizontal axis indicates the ‘Interest Level’ generated by each question, showing how likely the question is to inspire new thinking and possibilities.

The vertical axis can perhaps represent ‘Complexity’ e.g. how far the question deepens understanding and general complex thinking.


10. ‘The Question Wall’

Similar to the ‘Question Continuum’; give students post it notes to write their questions on and display them visibly. Asking students to commit questions to writing typically eliminates any that reflect a sense of ‘learnt helplessness’ e.g. ‘how do you spell...?’ when there is a dictionary on the table.

To see complete explanations of all of the above, visit Alex’s original post on questioning in the classroom.

Topics: Classroom Strategies

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iris connect film club