Notes From the Coach


Why Is Questioning Important?

  • A teacher’s questioning can set the pace of the lesson
  • Questioning provides the teacher an understanding of students interests and opinions
  • It provides the teacher a type of formative assessment in an informal way
  • Using questioning effectively shifts the focus on the student rather than the teacher
  • Questions force students to think about the content and apply it to new situations

What Does the Research Say?

#1: Teachers ask too many questions. A study suggests that teachers ask about 43 questions every 15 minutes. That’s roughly 2-3 questions per minute.

#2: Most teacher questions are at the lowest cognitive level (fact, recall or knowledge). Just 20% of the questions posed in classroom require higher-level thinking.

#3: Not all students are accountable to respond to all questions. Target students (those students teachers call on most frequently) answer 3 times as often as their classmates. As a result, target students tend to do better on achievement tests. Furthermore, 25% of students do not participate at all.

#4: Teachers typically wait less than 1 second after asking a question before calling on a student to answer. They wait even less time (usually 0 seconds) before speaking after a student has answered. Studies indicate that teachers wait for more than 3 seconds after posing a question less than 12% of the time.

#5: Teachers often accept incorrect answers without probing; they frequently answer their own questions. Studies show that nearly half of students’ responses are at a different cognitive level than the question, yet teachers rarely probe for more information.

#6: Students ask very few content-related questions. Teachers tend to spend little time teaching students how to formulate good questions related to content.

Levels of Questioning

There are 3 Levels of Questions:

  • Literal Level Questions: Answered directly from text; usually one correct answer
  • Interpretive/Inferential Questions: Involve piecing information together; making connections and inferences
  • Applied or Evaluative: Involve going beyond text or content; give opinions or make judgments

Questioning Methods to Incorporate Throughout Your Daily Lessons

  1. Classroom Debate
  2. Socratic Seminar
  3. Cooperative Learning Structures (Jigsaw, Carousel Brainstorm, Inside/ Outside Circle, Give One Get One, etc.)
  4. Talking Chips (Each student receives a certain number of chips (opportunities to talk)

Classroom Set Up; Some Things to Think About

Is the physical arrangement of your classroom conducive to a class discussion? Can furniture be moved to better facilitate a discussion? Will students be willing to take risks and answer questions even if their answer might be incorrect? How do you praise a correct response? How do you praise a student for attempting to answer a questions?

Consider the method you will use to call on students? Will you only call on students who raise their hands? Will you have a method of randomly selecting students? Consider the established norms in your classroom. Do students listen to you when you are talking? How about when other students are talking?

Friendly Advice

Plan questions in advance by writing them down with the answer to your question in mind. Be ready to re-phrase questions for students if they do not understand what you are asking. Ask questions at all cognitive levels that are purposeful, clear, and focused. Be sure to allow sufficient wait time for student responses. Be sure to develop a method that ensures full–class participation. Consider using some type of method to ensure there is only one person talking at a time. (Talking stick, a koosh ball, etc.) Make sure students are engaged in the discussion. Consider having them paraphrase their peers’ answers to make sure they are actively listening.

5 Powerful Questions To Use In Any Content Area

1. What do you think?

2. Why do you think that?

3. How do you know this?

4. Can you tell me more?

5. What questions do you still have?