‘When planning questions, every teacher should ask themselves: do I want the students to develop critical thinking skills or deepen their subject knowledge? It can be both. This will determine what type of questions to ask and how to ask them.’ (Ross Morrison McGill, 2017)
Experienced teachers recognise the power of questions; they ask questions everyday and they can be responsible for a significant proportion of time in class, therefore it is important to ask the right questions. Teachers ask questions to:
- Check and clarify understanding
- Recall or retrieve information
- Articulate opinions, thoughts and ideas
- Develop creative and critical thinking
- Challenge assumptions and address misconceptions
- Assist with forward planning
- Engage, motivate and interest
It is good practice to plan for and use a variety of questions through the lesson. Questions need to be framed with the right choice of language, meet different cognitive needs and provide challenge.
Deeper, higher order questions encourage thinking and expect pupils to evaluate, interpret, apply, predict and analyse.
Lower order questions are those that recall or remember what has previously been learnt and require an understanding of the subject.
It is important to engage everyone when questioning, this could be achieved through:
- Cold calling – say the question before choosing a pupil to answer, call on pupils whether or not they have raised their hands;
- Whiteboards – pupils have whiteboards to record responses then hold it up for the teacher / peers;
- Pose, pause, pounce, bounce – teacher poses a question, pause (wait time), pounces on a pupil to respond, bounce this response to another pupil;
- ABCDE cards – teacher asks a multiple-choice question and asks pupils to hold up cards labelled A, B, C, D or E as their individual response;
- Think, pair, share – ask the question, give pupils time or think (or write) responses, they then share with a peer, finally teacher leads whole-class sharing or thoughts;
- Talk partners – ask the question then pupils turn to talk to their neighbour or talk partner;
- Ask, pause, pick, listen, explain – ask a prepared question, provide wait time, pick a pupil to answer, listen to the answer, generate a dialogue based on the response;
- What’s the question – give an answer – what could the question be? How many answers can you think of to this question?
‘The real problem is that teachers tend to ask a question, have the confident, articulate students volunteering to respond, the teacher gets an answer from those students and, therefore, if they give a correct answer the teacher tends to move on. All I’m saying is, if you’re only hearing from the confident, articulate students, the quality of your evidence about who is getting it and who is not is rather poor.’ (Dylan William, 2019)
This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer.
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