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Introductory Session


The importance of questioning

Question and answer is perhaps the most common form of interaction between teachers and pupils. Teachers use questions for many reasons; to gain pupils' attention, to monitor their understanding or to promote thinking and reasoning. Pupils do not always appreciate the intentions behind the teacher's questions. This is seen for example, when they try to guess 'the right answer' rather than give a thoughtful explanation. In this module, we therefore use tasks that don't have a single 'right answer' and look closely at how careful questioning can be used to promote thinking, reasoning and explaining.

  • If you are leading a session, or working alone you may wish to print a copy of the module handbook.
  • Session leaders should make copies of the handouts for all participants.

Activity 1

Think about why we ask questions

There are many different types of questions and they serve many different purposes.

  • What different types of questions are there?
  • What different purposes do your questions serve?
  • Which types do you use most frequently?

List your ideas on Handout 1.

Activity 2

Compare effective and ineffective questioning

Record your ideas to the following questions on Handout 2.

  • What are the common mistakes you tend to make when asking questions?
  • What are their effects?
  • What types of questions encourage thinking and reasoning?
  • Give some examples that you have recently used.

Now look at Handout 3. This describes some characteristics of effective questioning.

  • Reflect on the implications of these ideas for your own practice.

You may like to watch the extended video of Gwen, Jeff and Chris' discussion.

Activity 3

Observe a lesson

Have a go at the Sharing petrol costs problem on Handout 4. Now watch Gwen's lesson which uses this problem. As you watch the video sequence consider the following questions:

  • How does Gwen use questions?
  • How does she respond to the wide range of answers?
  • What is she trying to achieve with her interactions?

Activity 4

Plan a lesson for effective questioning

Choose one of the problems on Handout 4 to try with your class. Use the prompts on Handout 5 to plan a lesson that will promote thinking and reasoning.

  • How will you organise the classroom and the resources needed?
  • How will you introduce the questioning session?
  • How will you establish the new ground rules?
  • What will be your first question?
  • How will you give thinking time?
  • Will you need to interrupt pupils to refocus them on the problem or discuss strategies?
  • What questions will you use in plenary discussions?

If possible, audio-record some whole class questioning during your lesson for discussion in the follow-up session.