How important is effective questioning in the classroom?


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I love this cartoon. The most difficult aspect of any lesson is often asking the right question. I am beginning a professional learning community aimed at developing a strategy that will assist teachers to ask the right questions. On beginning my research I discovered a minefield of information but very often they simply reword the same advice, questioning is one of the key elements of an outstanding lesson.

Ofsted provides a very effective synopsis,

How do questions promote learning?

Good questions stimulate thinking And often generate more questions to clarify understanding.

Good questions generate informative responses….

Good questions encourage learners to make links.

Good questions push pupils to the limits of their understanding…..and the limit of a teacher’s understanding.

Good questions offer opportunities to listen to other learners and their answers.

Quite simply, the best questions can lead to the best collaborative learning opportunities.

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This caption that I discovered on the web epitomises why we need to ask questions. If we ignore the world around us, our environment, then how will we ever discover the life that exists beneath our feet, in the sky or the wonders of the Universe.

If Sir Isaac Newton hadn’t asked why, if Louis Pasteur didn’t consider how to cure, if people were not naturally inquisitive, then would we enjoy the opportunities that we have today?

I created a very simple device for myself as a teacher, it was called ASK!

A: Ask the question that inspires discussion.

When teaching Science I often used a concept cartoon as the initial question. This technique allows the teacher to begin with a meaningful discussion

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What a wonderful way of engaging all learners! It works! A question that is both meaningful and visual can involve all the learners.


From the beginning of a lesson many suggestions would develop but the key would always be to encourage the pupils to think of their own questions and to challenge themselves.

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The progress involved in developing suggestions relies on the flexibility of a skills focused lesson plan. The content may diverse from the original idea that was or is intended by the teacher but the skills on the road to discovery remain the same.

K : Knowledge

The purpose of effective questioning is to improve pupils knowledge and awareness of certain events, discoveries, facts etc. All questions directed to provoking thought will lead to a greater knowledge. This in turn will have a positive impact on pupil standards mainly by engaging all pupils.

Whether by using KWL grids,

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Or Mind Maps,


The type of questioning will always surround the following ideas,

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The key element is to use the question effectively.

Too many questions can spoil a lesson but asking the right question makes the world of difference!

Some warnings are required,

– do not ask the same children all the time

– ask both the left and the right side of the classroom

This might sound strange however quite a few years ago whilst monitoring lessons I discovered that teachers tended to favour one side more than the other. This tended to follow whether they were left or right hand dominant. This wasn’t a scientific research but simply an observation.

– give pupils time to answer

It is important that they have time to ponder!

– admit when you do not know the answer

Pupils thoroughly enjoy discovering the answer with you and you are guaranteed to earn their respect!

– be patient on the road to discovery

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More than anything enjoy the opportunity to allow pupils to flourish.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. These are criteria that I built into my Flitlits/ Y Sbridion initiative, Richard. Young pupils enquired: ‘Why; what; where; when?’ so much during the pilot exercises. They wondered why the characters are stylistically diverse, for example. This stimulated debates and championed differences, which was the intention.
    Ponder Plot and Mistake Break, among others, are landmarks on the map of the ethereal setting that were used for role play in the classroom and which stimulated much discussion also.
    It’s a fascinating topic and one that I enjoyed sharing with teachers and pupils so much.

  2. Reblogged this on Cymraeg@MartinSant and commented:
    Very challenging but so true. Thank you for this. The question has me thinking about my own use of questioning in class. Diolch

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