The use of questioning to aid progress

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If you are in the teaching profession you know that the term “high order questioning” is used a lot and is an excellent tool to help accelerate learning and improve progress in your students. As this blog is for anyone interested in learning and teaching and not just established teachers, I am going to assume that you don’t know what higher order questioning is. If you’re an established teacher I hope you enjoy the read and please feel free to comment if you have anything to add.

I was looking for a good definitive definition for the term I came across the below description from The British Council which I think sums up higher order questioning nicely.

“Higher-order questions require answers that go beyond simple information and as such both the language and thinking behind them is more complex. They take learners into more abstract language functions, such as giving and justifying opinions, speculation, and hypothesising.”

The British council

So you we know what it is and how it works. The main aim of using this tool is to try to install this process into your students so that it becomes second nature to them. This enable them to develop their thinking skills and will help them prepare for exams they may be taking.

Below are some strategies I have used whilst teaching, I was directed to these when I was a training to be a teacher. These strategies have come from The Washington University Teaching Centre although this is an American university the premise of questioning is universal which is why it’s such a great teaching tool. These strategies have become invaluable teaching tools for me.

Responding Effectively to students

  • Wait for students to think and formulate responses.
  • Do not interrupt students’ answers.
  • Show that you are interested in students’ answers, whether right or wrong
  • Develop responses that keep students thinking.
  • If a student gives an incorrect or weak answer, point out what is incorrect or weak about the answer, but ask the student a follow-up question that will lead that student, and the class, to the correct or stronger answer.

Why Ask “Open” Questions?

  1. To assess learning.
  • What is the most important idea that was generated in today’s discussion?
  • Can you explain this concept in your own words?
  • Can you draw a diagram to illustrate this idea?
  1. To ask a student to clarify a vague comment.
  • Could you elaborate on that point?
  • Can you explain what you mean?
  1. To prompt students to explore attitudes, values, or feelings (when appropriate).
  • What are the values or beliefs that inform this argument?
  • What is your initial reaction to this argument?
  1. To prompt students to see a concept from another perspective.
  • How do you think that this issue is viewed by those with whom you disagree?
  • How does that concept apply to this new problem?
  1. To ask a student to refine a statement or idea.
  • When does that principle apply? Always? Only under certain conditions?
  • Would you say, then, that you disagree with the author?
  1. To prompt students to support their assertions and interpretations.
  • How do you know that?
  • Which part of the text led you to that conclusion?
  1. To direct students to respond to one another.
  • What do you think about the idea just presented by your classmate?
  • Do you agree or do you see the issue differently? Explain.
  • Can you think of another way to solve that problem?
  1. To prompt students to investigate a thought process.
  • What are the assumptions that informed the design of this experiment?
  • What are the assumptions that these two arguments share?
  1. To ask students to predict possible outcomes.
  • What might happen if this practice were to be outlawed?
  • What would be the result if a different set of assumptions were used to set up this experiment?
  • Would you get a different result?
  1. To prompt students to connect and organize information.
  • How does this article shed light on the concept we studied last week?
  • Can you develop a graph or table that organizes this information in a helpful way?
  1. To ask students to apply a principle or formula.
  • How does this principle apply to the following situation?
  • Who can suggest how we might use this new formula to solve the problems we examined at the start of class today?
  • Under what conditions is this equation not valid?
  1. To ask students to illustrate a concept with an example.
  • Can you think of an example of this phenomenon, drawn from your research?
  • Can you point us to a specific part of the novel that led you to that conclusion?
  • Can you identify a painting or design that exemplifies that idea?

Blooms Taxonomy

I have found this particularly useful and have this printed out in my planner.



If you have anything you feel you could add to this post please do get in contact.


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