Why this approach is important
Asking questions is an important way of finding out what your students know and understand. But there are other reasons why teachers ask questions:
- to check prior knowledge and understanding
- to extend students’ thinking from concrete and factual to analytical
- to help students recall knowledge, drawing on existing knowledge in order to build new understandings
- to lead students through a planned sequence that progressively establishes key understandings
- to stimulate interest, challenge and encourage thought and understanding
- to promote reasoning, problem solving, evaluation and the formulation of hypotheses
- to raise a self-awareness of how they learn.
Asking questions can also be used as a classroom management tool. They can be used to distract students who are being inattentive or to involve students who are side-tracked. They can also be used to boost student confidence and self-esteem.
Evidence shows that two of the most effective teaching methods involve providing feedback and whole-class interactive teaching. Asking questions provides the opportunity for you to provide feedback and for students to feedback to each other. And importantly, questions can be used to make whole-class teaching interactive.
For whole-class teaching to be interactive (Petty, 2009), teachers need to:
- ask challenging and interesting questions
- expect full participation, if necessary, nominating students to answer in order to keep them involved
- model respect for all students’ answers even if the answers are weak
- ask students to explain their thinking
- invite students to respond to each other’s answers to the questions.
The key to effective questioning is to think what you are trying to achieve with your questions, to plan your questions and to listen carefully to your students’ answers. Resource 1 covers quite a bit of detail about using questioning effectively.