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Learn About Questioning

Questioning is at the heart of good teaching. Choosing the right types of questions to ask students is necessary to spark thought-provoking answers and engage students in productive discussions. The instructional strategy of questioning is about asking probing and challenging questions that call for higher cognitive thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. By asking challenging questions, we call upon students to explore ideas and apply new knowledge to other situations.

Using different types of questioning allows students to think in different and unique ways. At the core of a project-based learning classroom are enduring Essential Questions and higher-level Curriculum-Framing Questions. These questions are posed at the beginning of a unit of study, and students continue to explore and revisit these questions throughout. 

Questions that require students to defend or explain their positions are open-ended questions. Closed questions are limiting and allow for one or two students to answer either correctly or incorrectly. Open-ended questions are probing and encourage students to think about several ideas. There isn’t just one correct answer. By posing open-ended questions to a group of students, the amount of ideas and answers are limitless. Open-ended questions:

  • Tell students what is valued and what is important
  • Elicit a range of responses
  • Involve teacher and student communication  
  • Stir discussion and debate in the classroom

Effective questioning involves both teacher and student. It is important for the teacher to give “wait time” before asking for responses. Wait time is defined as the amount of time that lapses between a teacher-initiated question and the next verbal answer given by a student. This allows students the opportunity to reflect and think before they speak. Allowing many student ideas, rather than just a couple, is imperative as well. All who want to share should have an opportunity to do so. If time does not allow, these students should have a place to go such as a journal, a learning log, or a whiteboard, to record ideas that can be discussed at a later time. 

Make it Happen in Your Classroom

Effective questioning can be used at all grade levels and with all subjects to engage students in the content being taught.

Elaborating, Hypothetical, and Clarification Questions >
See examples of different types of questioning techniques that can be used with students at all levels.

Socratic Questioning >
Read about the Socratic Questioning technique and how to use it in the classroom.