Effective Questioning Techniques in the Classroom

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Asking questions is one of the best ways to promote student learning, no matter the age group! This lesson will help you understand how to figure out what questions to ask and when, as well as how to make effective questioning a part of your teaching that you can do instinctively.

Questions About Questions

When are some times that being questioned in the classroom has really helped your learning? When are some times that you haven't been questioned enough, or you've been questioned in a way that really didn't help you think and grow as a learner?

In fact, how did the questions above impact your thinking or prepare you for the lesson to come?

In this lesson, we will look at effective questioning techniques in the classroom. When used properly, asking the right questions will help your students to grow as learners. In this lesson, you will learn how to make questioning a natural part of your teaching, no matter the age group or content area you teach. By the time you have finished this lesson, you will understand why questions are an effective teaching tool, what types of questions are most beneficial for student learning, and how you can construct and time questions to best support the cognitive and emotional growth of your students.

Why Are Questions Important?

Consider the subheading above. If I had written 'why questions are important,' you may have been left with the sense that I was about to lecture you. Instead, I asked you, 'why are questions important?' as a way of showing that I cared about your input and valued what you already know. This is one reason questions are such an effective teaching tool: they activate students' prior knowledge about a particular topic, and they also show that you, the teacher, really care about what students have to say. If you're about to teach a lesson about ant colonies, you might start by asking students, 'why are ant colonies worth studying?' or even 'what do you know about ant colonies?' These questions will turn students on to the topic you are about to discuss.

This teacher is clearly occupied with the emotional health of her students as she questions them.

Questions are also important as a way of keeping students engaged in the middle of a lesson. If you are reading aloud a novel to your fourth graders, it's important to stop after every few paragraphs and ask students what's on their mind. You can use questions to assess their comprehension and even get them talking to one another about ideas from the text.

What Types of Questions Work Best?

When you are using questioning techniques in the classroom, try to stick with open-ended questions whenever possible. Open-ended questions are those that do not necessarily have a right or a wrong answer. Even in math, when there are many rights and wrongs, you will prompt a better discussion if you ask students, 'how can you explain this problem?' rather than 'what is the right answer?'

Questions that can be asked with a simple yes or no certainly will not get students thinking the way an open-ended question will. A good rule of thumb as you are starting to work on questioning in your classroom is to think about starting most questions with 'how' and 'why.'

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