Students Raising Hands In Classroom

Questioning

Questioning is an essential part of effective classroom practice and can be utilised throughout lessons for many different purposes.

ECF strands: 1f, 2k, 4.6, 4.7, 4m, 4n and 6e

Why is questioning important?

High-quality classroom talk is a powerful tool for learning (EEF, 2019). It can support pupils to articulate key ideas, consolidate learning and extend their vocabulary. This is supported by Rosenshine (2012) as he found that the most effective teachers spent more than half of the class time explaining, modelling and asking questions. Questioning is a vital teacher tool for two main reasons (Rosenshine, 2012):

  • It enables you to assess pupils’ understanding to determine whether there is a need for additional instruction

  • It enables you to provide pupils the opportunity to practise what is being taught to consolidate and extend learning

How can questioning be used in the classroom?

Questioning is a vital tool to use within the classroom as it enables you to both assess pupils’ understanding and extend pupils’ learning. To use questioning to best effect, there are some principles to consider:

  • Avoid self-report questions – ask questions that directly assess pupil understanding of the material being taught

  • Check whole class understanding

  • Provide appropriate wait time after asking a question to allow pupils to generate a response

  • Do not complete pupils’ answers

  • Ask follow-up questions to extend and challenge pupils

  • Will pupils’ benefit from scaffolds such as sentence frames when answering questions?

Assessing understanding through questioning

Assessing understanding is an essential part of teaching as it gives you an insight about the level of knowledge pupils have. It should be used throughout explanations to check whether you need to re-teach the step you have just introduced or move onto the next. Assessing understanding can be challenging to get right. In order to appreciate how to check for understanding effectively, it is helpful to consider what constitutes poor practice to highlight strategies to avoid.

 

Rosenshine (1982), cited in Rosenshine’s Principles in Action (2019, page 31) highlights that the wrong way to check for understanding is:

“…to ask only a few questions, call on volunteers to hear their (usually correct) answers, and then assume that all of the class either understands or has now learned from hearing the volunteers’ responses. Another error is to ask, ‘Are there any questions?’ and, if there aren’t any, assume that everybody understands. Another error is to assume that it is not necessary to check for understanding, and simply repeating the points will be sufficient.”

Rosenshine (2019)

Checking for, and building, understanding through questioning is a vital process that should occur continuously throughout the lesson.

Avoid askinSelf-report questions are generally the rhetorical questions which ask pupils to tell you whether they understand or not, such as:

“Is everyone clear on…?” or “Does that make sense…?”

These are the types of questions that Rosenshine recommends you avoid asking because such rhetorical questions typically generate a passive “yes” response and do not inform you about what they have understood or any misconceptions they may have developed.

Pupils are likely to give a passive response for a number of possible reasons:

  • Embarrassment – pupils are less likely to stop the teaching to say they don’t understand

  • Pupils aren’t aware of what they don’t know – because pupils are novices in the topic you are teaching, they are unlikely to be aware of misconceptions or inaccurate knowledge they may be developing

  • Pupils might find it hard to reflect on the question of whether they have understood something

To avoid asking rhetorical questions that don’t give accurate detail about pupil understanding, you should ask carefully chosen questions that are directly linked to the material you are teaching.

Activities

Watch Tom Sherrington's video entitled 'Rosenshine Masterclass 3 - Questioning'

Reflection

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Further Reading

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