Resource 2: Questioning strategies
Here are some strategies that you could use in your classroom for asking questions and responding to the students’ answers.
Students are invited to put their hands up in order to indicate that they would like to volunteer the answer. The thinking time is usually very short and if students call out the answer instead of putting their hand up then the thinking time for other students is even less. This method has low participation – the same students tend to volunteer. Students learn that if they don’t put their hand up they will not be asked. One reason teachers tend to like this method is it does not put students under pressure. Only those who want to answer have to.
If this method is used with closed questions, the opportunities for dialogue and feedback are limited because the people who volunteer are likely to be the ones who know the correct answer.
A nominee answers
Students are nominated by the teacher to answer a question. This has the advantage of increasing the thinking time. The teacher asks the question and pauses, giving the students a chance to think. The teacher then nominates someone to answer the question. This also increases participation as the teacher will often choose people who are reluctant to volunteer. However, this can make students feel uncomfortable and teachers can be tempted to limit the challenge of the questions in order to help students who feel uncomfortable with this technique.
When a student answers a question, instead of saying whether it is right or wrong, the teacher asks someone else to respond. For example, ‘What do you think, Sanjay? Is there anything you can add to that, Ditta?’
This increases the level of participation and gives students the chance to think a bit more about possible answers. It also increases the amount of dialogue in the classroom and gives the teacher the chance to ask a more demanding question, or one that requires a longer answer. The person the question is ‘bounced to’ can be a volunteer or a nominee.
Students work in small groups or pairs to answer questions. Students work in small groups or pairs to answer a thought-provoking question or to complete a short task. The teacher can then ask each group in turn to contribute part of the answer, allowing a volunteer within the group to answer. For example, ‘What sorts of things cause disease? Can you give me one cause for disease?’ Then the teacher would move on to another group for a different cause.
Alternatively, the teacher might nominate an individual in advance of the discussion. The nominated student answers on behalf of the group, but they have chance to talk to the rest of the group so that they are confident about their reply.
This method promotes high participation. It enables the teacher to ask challenging questions and gives plenty of thinking time. As the questions are likely to be more challenging, it opens up the opportunity for better dialogue and feedback.
Promoting more discussion
Students work in groups to discuss a thought provoking question, and evaluate each other’s responses. For example, the teacher might ask a question for which different interpretations are likely, or for which there are number of possible answers (How can we prevent disease?). The teacher will monitor the discussion (Does everyone have some answers? Do you need more time?) and then they will nominate an individual to give their group’s answer. The teacher will record the answer, without evaluating it and then ask another group for their answer. Once the teacher has a number of answers to the question, they ask a group to comment on the answers (Do you agree with all of these answers? If not, why not?), or they ask a follow up question (Which of these methods might be the most effective or the easiest to implement?).
This method involves high participation and gives your students plenty of time to think about their responses. It also promotes dialogue, and if the questions are challenging enough, promotes higher ordered thinking in a relatively ‘safe’ environment. Students who find the work difficult are not exposed, but are encouraged to think about the ideas.
The teacher asks a question and students are given time to think about the answer for themselves. In pairs they then compare answers and give feedback on each other’s answers. They say something that is good about the answer and something that could be improved. The teacher then gives the correct answer or nominates a pair to give the answer. Everyone has to participate in thinking about the questions, there is plenty of opportunity for thinking and discussion. Again, this is a good method to use for demanding or challenging questions.
(Source: based on Petty, 2009)