Asking the Right Questions to Promote Learning & Understanding

There are two types of questioning that teachers employ in the classroom:

Low-level questions tap students’ knowledge. These are the recall questions that address basic knowledge and comprehension of terms, facts, names, and events.

High-level questions require students to expand their thinking and relate to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These questions typically begin with How and Why. 

Both types of questions are necessary and important. Professor of Education, Dr. R. Ouyang states, “The primary issue is not to be rigid in defining question levels but rather to ask questions at a level appropriate for the learner and learning activities.”

To be effective in the classroom, the questions teachers ask students must be adjusted to fit the needs of the students. 

Prompting is one technique when a student does not answer a question or gives an incorrect response. Prompting questions use hints and clues to aid students in answering questions or to assist them in correcting an initial original question with clues or hints.

When a student’s reply is correct but insufficient because it lacks depth, the teacher can ask Probing questions to initiate the student to think more thoroughly about the initial response. Probing can ask follow up questions such as, “What do you mean by that?” or “Can you tell us more about . . ” or “How does this connect?”

Wait time is always something teachers ponder and can be a powerful question technique. Students need time to think. If teachers wait 3 seconds or longer for the answer to a question, the quality of students’ responses increases.

Here are some other questioning guidelines:

1. Ask clear questions. Ask something in simple, clear language that students can understand. 

2. Ask your questions before designating a respondent. Ask a question. Wait for the class to think about it, and then ask someone for an answer. 

3. Ask questions that match your lesson objectives

4. Distribute questions about the class fairly.

5. Ask one question at a time

As teachers we need to set the stage for meaningful discussions and model our questions so that students can exchange information and ideas with one another, not just for the sake of the teacher or a grade. 



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