Faculty of Education and UQx LEARNx team of contributors, The Open Resource Bank for Interactive Teaching, and University of Cambridge
- For every student query, teachers asked approximately 11 questions
- Students averaged less than one question each, while teachers averaged more than 200 questions each
- Teachers often answered their own questions
- Fewer teacher questions requires deep thinking by the learner
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Summary of research
- What is effective questioning?
- How do questions engage students and promote responses?
- How do questions develop students’ cognitive abilities?
- Questions are planned and closely linked to the objectives of the lesson.
- The learning of basic skills is enhanced by frequent questions following the exposition of new content that has been broken down into small steps. Each step should be followed by guided practice that provides opportunities for students to consolidate what they have learned and that allows teachers to check understanding.
- Closed questions are used to check factual understanding and recall.
- Open questions predominate.
- Sequences of questions are planned so that the cognitive level increases as the questions go on. This ensures that students are led to answer questions which demand increasingly higher-order thinking skills, but are supported on the way by questions which require less sophisticated thinking skills.
- Students have opportunities to ask their own questions and seek their own answers. They are encouraged to provide feedback to each other.
- The classroom climate is one where students feel secure enough to take risks, be tentative and make mistakes.
- there is a classroom climate in which students feel safe and know they will not be criticized or ridiculed if they give a wrong answer
- prompts are provided to give students confidence to try an answer
- there is a ‘no-hands’ approach to answering, where you choose the respondent rather than have them volunteer
- ‘wait time’ is provided before an answer is required. The research suggests that 3 seconds is about right for most questions, with the proviso that more complex questions may need a longer wait time. Research shows that the average wait time in classrooms is about 1 second (Rowe 1986; Borich 1996)
Common Pitfalls of Questioning and possible solutions
- Be clear about why you are asking the questions. Make sure they will do what you want them to do.
- Plan sequences of questions that make increasingly challenging cognitive demands on students.
- Give students time to answer and provide prompts to help them if necessary. Ask conscripts rather than volunteers to answer questions
- Look again at the list of pitfalls and think about your own teaching. Which of these traps have you fallen into during recent lessons?
- How might you have avoided them?