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Practicing Effective Questioning

There are many ways to ask a question and some ways are better than others. Thinking about the types of questions that could be asked or even preparing specific questions prior to teaching a lesson will often lead to more effective classroom discussions. It is important to think of thoughtful questions that encourage students to think critically about the concept being learned. In order to be successful at effectively questioning students, teachers must be aware of the type of questions they are directing to the students and use effective questioning practices.

Suggestions for Effective Questioning

Below is a list different types of questions. The questions are listed in order of their recommended usage. The types of questions at or near the top should be used with more frequency than those at or near the bottom.

  1. Ask students to seek out the evidence:
    • What kind of evidence did you find?
    • What makes you think that...?
  2. Ask students to explain:
    • How would you explain this?
    • What were some of the causes that led to...?
  3. Ask questions that relate concepts, ideas, and opinions:
    • How does that compare to...?
    • What did other people discover or say about ...?
  4. Ask questions that encourage your students to predict:
    • What will you do next?
    • What will happen if you...?
    • What could you do to prevent that ?
  5. Ask students questions that encourage them to describe:
    • What did you do?
    • What happened?
    • What did you observe happening?

  • ...asking questions that begin with words like "What if," "Explain," "Analyze," "Create," and "Compare and contrast," etc.
  • ...asking questions that have a "yes" or "no" response and questions that require merely direct recall of definitions etc.
  • ...the amount of time you wait after you pose a question, i.e. wait-time, in order to allow students to process the question in their minds.
  • ...calling on students directly after you pose a question and calling on a student before you even ask the question.
  • ...asking students to elaborate on their answers and asking students "why."
  • ...telling a student their answer is wrong and not asking them to think of why it is wrong.
  • ...opportunities for students to pose questions amongst themselves.
  • ...straight lecture without student interaction.
  • ...providing opportunities that challenge students' original conceptual understandings.
  • ...providing opportunities that do not encourage creative and critical thinking.
  • ...encouraging students to work through their decision making process, even if it bring frustration and makes them leave their comfort zone of learning.
  • ...giving students direct answers to their questions without allowing them to think through the decision making process.

Learning is an active process. Teachers must work hard at encouraging students to think on their own and construct their own explanations. This will allow students to maximize their learning potential.

Teacher Tips

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Goal Setting

Developing an Interest in Science and Math

Developing Communication Skills

Developing Problem-solving Skills

Effective Discipline

Encouraging Cooperative Learning

Encouraging Creativity

Encouraging Students to Explore for Answers

Fostering Independent Thinking

Motivating Students

Overcoming the Fear of Making a Mistake

Practicing Effective Questioning


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