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Revised July 2003. Questioning. Using questioning at Key Stage 3 to get pupils to think harder and for longer. Phil Smith Foundation Strand Consultant Bury LEA. Before 5.30pm we will. Are we fully aware of the range of questions we use in our classrooms?. What’s good questioning?.

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Revised July 2003

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revised july 2003
Revised July 2003


  • Using questioning at Key Stage 3 to get pupils to think harder and for longer

Phil Smith Foundation Strand Consultant Bury LEA

before 5 30pm we will
Before 5.30pm we will
  • Are we fully aware of the range of questions we use in our classrooms?
  • What’s good questioning?

Planning for successful questioning?

  • What practical things can we do after this training?
did you know
Did you know?
  • Teachers ask up to two questions every minute, up to 400 in a day, around 70,000 a year, or two to three million in the course of a career.
  • Questioning accounts for up to 1/3 of all teaching time, second only to the time devoted to explanation
  • Most questions are answered in less than a second. That’s the average time teachers allow between posing a question and accepting an answer, throwing it to someone else, or answering it themselves!
  • Weaker pupils are given less time than this!
  • An average of one spontaneous question each lesson came from pupils…and that was more likely to do with procedure than with learning (Ted Wragg research)
  • Research has found, however, that increasing the wait time improves the number and quality of the responses-three seconds for a lower-order question and more than 10 seconds for a higher-order question
did you know4
Did you know?
  • 30-60% of these questions are procedural rather than learning-based (they tend to be of the is-your-name-on-it? Or have-you-finished-yet?)
  • “Finishing lessons on the stroke of the bell with the familiar call of “Any questions?” (which of course, really means “There aren’t any questions, are there?”) sends out the message that questions are a nuisance.” S. Hastings (TES 2003)
questioning the instinctive skill
We have to start shining lights on to our intuition

Those who never have, find it hard to extend another teacher who has equal promise

Questioning…the “instinctive” skill?
  • “Why is she good?” It was a mystery, a doctrine to be accepted not fathomed.….The God of teaching bestowed inspiration and he could be neither pacified nor challenged.
  • Christine Counsell

“He’s an inspirational teacher” whispered the awed colleague…as if a saint had come to dwell among us…it was a final explanation, a completed judgement that brooked no further analysis. It was an answer.”

Christine Counsell

why ask pupils questions
Why ask pupils questions?
  • They can help pupils to reflect on information and commit it to memory
  • They can develop thinking skills
  • Encourage discussion and stimulate new ideas
  • Allow teachers to determine how much a class understands and enable them to pitch lessons at an appropriate level
  • Important tool for managing the classroom
  • Help draw individuals into the lesson and keeping them interested and alert
  • Symbolic message, that pupils are expected to be active participants in the learning process
why have training in which we just focus on questioning
Why have training in which we just focus on questioning?

What do you think the reasons are?

  • the most common form of interaction between teacher and pupil;
  • b. an element of virtually every type and model of lesson;
  • c. a key method of providing appropriate challenge for all pupils;

d. an important influence on the extent of progress made;

  • the most immediate and accessible way for a teacher to assess learning.
analysing our own questioning
Analysing our own questioning
  • Spend five minutes on your own analysing your questions using Handout 4.1
  • Then in groups of 3 or 4
  • (i) Compare your notes with each other
  • Come up with 3 key purposes for asking questions in lessons
can you spot the dodgy questions
Can you spot the dodgy questions?
  • They must capture interest
  • Focus on real worthwhile aspects of that subject’s thinking, concepts or processes
  • Result in a tangible, lively, substantial and enjoyable “outcome activity” through which pupils can genuinely answer the key question
can we spot the dodgy questions
Can we spot the dodgy “questions”?
  • Electricity
  • Weather patterns over Europe
  • Do different people in different countries respond the same to natural disasters?
  • Telling the time in French
  • How would you cope if you were lost in Paris after missing the school coach?
  • What structures do musicians use to organise sounds?
  • Tempo
  • School trip to the art gallery
  • How effective is the art gallery in portraying different styles of painting from the 20th century?
  • When did the French Revolution happen?
  • Why do we still bother to study the French Revolution?
what s the purpose of good questioning in a classroom
What’s the purpose of good questioning in a classroom?
  • To interest, engage and challenge pupils
  • To check on prior knowledge
  • To stimulate recall and use of existing knowledge and experience in order to create new understanding and meaning
  • To focus thinking on key concepts and issues
  • To extend pupils’ thinking from the concrete and factual to the analytical and evaluative
  • To lead pupils through a planned sequence which progressively establishes key understandings
  • To promote reasoning, problem solving, evaluation and the formulation of hypotheses
  • To promote pupils’ thinking about the way they have learned
pitfalls of questioning
Pitfalls of questioning

It is easy to fall into the trap of:

  • asking too many closed questions;
  • asking pupils questions to which they can respond with a simple yes or no answer;

Can we think of any more potential pitfalls?

pitfalls of questioning14
Pitfalls of questioning

It is easy to fall into the trap of:

  • asking too many short-answer, recall-based questions;
  • asking bogus ‘guess what I’m thinking’ questions;
  • starting all questions with the same stem;
more pitfalls of questioning
More pitfalls of questioning

It is easy to fall into the trap of:

  • pursuing red herrings;
  • dealing ineffectively with incorrect answers or misconceptions;
  • focusing on a small number of pupils and not involving the whole class;
and some more
And some more…
  • making the sequence of questions too rigid;
  • not giving pupils time to reflect, or to pose their own questions;
  • asking questions when another strategy might be more appropriate…See Handout 4.2
using questions to promote thinking there s nothing so practical as a good theory
Using questions to promote thinking….There’s nothing so practical as a good theory!

Achievement at NC Level 5+ require such higher-order thinking

Bloom researched thousands of questions that teachers asked and categorised them

And yet pupils’ level of achievement can be increased by regular practice of higher-order thinking

The majority of questions asked (95%) by teachers were factual recall and comprehension

Few questions developed higher-order thinking skills

what did bloom discover
What did Bloom discover?
  • Evaluation being able to judge the worth of material against stated criteria. Sees pupils judging, assessing comparing and contrasting
  • Knowledge or recall of bits of “stuff”…..can be the foundation for higher levels of thinking
  • Synthesis being able to put together separate ideas to form new wholes, or to establish new links
  • Analysis being able to explain how the various parts fit together, infer and analyse
  • Application using learnt information, ideas and skills in new topics/situations.
  • Comprehension where pupils start to understand the basic information so that they can explain it
goldilocks and bloom
Goldilocks and Bloom
  • Knowledge…Whose porridge was too sweet?
  • Comprehension…Why did Goldilocks like Little Bear’s bed best?
  • Application…What would have happened if Goldilocks had come to your house?
  • Analysis…Which parts of the story could not be true?
  • Synthesis…Can you think of a different ending?
  • Evaluation…What do you think of the story?

Was Goldilocks good or bad? Why?

how much of bloom is in your classroom
How much of Bloom is in your classroom?
  • In groups of 3 or 4 can you identify what range and styles of questions are being asked to these pupils…Handout 4.4
  • Use Bloom’s list to classify and sort these questions.
  • This is pretty tricky to do since we are taking these questions out of context.
the devil s in the detail
The Devil’s in the detail!
  • We can enhance our questioning by giving more focussed attention to the wording of our questions and the sequencing of them
how much more of bloom can you get into your classroom
How much more of Bloom can you get into your classroom?


  • Questions for learning
  • What three things are the most important?
  • Describe them to me
  • List for me the key characters in the book
  • Write your list, turn it over, repeat it
  • Where in the book would you find
  • Name as many characters as you can, go for 5
  • Activities
  • Tell
  • Recite
  • List
  • Memorise
  • Remember
  • Find
  • Name
how much more of bloom can you get into your classroom24
How much more of Bloom can you get into your classroom?


  • Questions for learning
  • What do you think is happening here?
  • Can you think of any other examples?
  • What might this mean?
  • What 3 things are the most important?
  • Activities
  • Explain
  • Give examples of
  • Summarise
  • draw
how much more of bloom can you get into your classroom25
How much more of Bloom can you get into your classroom?


  • Questions for learning
  • Plan and deliver a presentation to…
  • What is most significant for your chosen audience?
  • How can you best demonstrate your understanding?
  • Activities
  • Demonstrate
  • Based on what you know
  • Model
how much more of bloom can you get into your classroom26
How much more of Bloom can you get into your classroom?


  • Questions for learning
  • What information is needed? Where will you get it?
  • Organise the data using a flow chart/concept map
  • List arguments for and against, compare them
  • Separate into fact and opinion using a Venn diagram
  • Activities
  • Investigate
  • Classify
  • Categorise
  • Facts and opinions
how much more of bloom can you get into your classroom27
How much more of Bloom can you get into your classroom?


  • Questions for learning
  • Provide a portfolio for evidence showing your case for…
  • Taking the theme of stillness produce three pieces for piano
  • Using all the evidence available…
  • Based on the evidence and your own feelings, what do you think is likely to…?
  • Activities
  • Create
  • Compose
  • Forecast
  • Formulate
  • Argue the case for
  • Predict
  • Imagine
how much more of bloom can you get into your classroom28
How much more of Bloom can you get into your classroom?


  • Questions for learning
  • Re-order with a justification
  • Design a mechanism to evaluate the performance
  • Discuss the relative merits in relation to…
  • Following your critique, say which is better and why
  • What is the best option? Why? List five reasons.
  • Activities
  • Prioritise
  • Rate
  • Grade
  • Critique
  • Judge
  • Recommend
simplest definition
Simplest definition
  • Lower-order questions …which require children to remember. They tend to be closed, with a single right answer, and are likely to be what, who, when or where.
  • Higher-order questions…which require them to think. They tend to start with how, why or which and tend to be open-with a range of possible answers
research discovered that
Research discovered that
  • 4% of questions in a secondary school were higher-order
  • 8% of questions in a primary school were higher-order

“Because teachers ask so many questions, it’s easy for one style of questioning to become habitual.” Professor Ted Wragg

“And lower-order questions feel safest because they keep the lesson moving.” Professor Ted Wragg

tactics used in a real classroom
Tactics used in a real classroom
  • Use Handout 4.5 to record some positive features of the questioning
ms history
Ms. History
  • Stimulated thinking by
  • Having an unhurried pace
  • Allowed wait times….(the average wait time is less than 1 second and below average pupils are given even LESS wait time).

“It’s such a simple idea. But the impact is remarkable. Having the self-discipline to keep quiet for a moment is sometimes all you need to do to get children thinking.” Bob Marshall (Smarter Learning)

  • Open ended questions
  • Pupils asked speculative “What if” questions
  • Extended/sustained responsesby
  • Requesting explanations
  • Posed challenging “Why” questions
  • Pupils’ answers are valued by the teacher
ms history34
Ms. History
  • Encouraged active listening by
  • Poising questions to conscripts as well as volunteers (pose, pause, pounce method!)
  • Using a variety of questions
  • Encouraging pupils to generate their own questions
  • Created an interaction between pupilsby
  • Carefully structuring “think, pair, share” sessions
  • Encouraging to ask each other questions
  • Requesting pupils to add to and challenge the answers provided by others
  • “Asking pupils to set tests at the end of a topic for other children in the class-awarding marks for the quality of the answers-can get them used to the varied forms of possible questions.” S. Hastings (TES July 2003)
  • “They need to know that questions aren’t as scary as they might seem-using search engines on the internet to pose inquiries, working in small groups or making a question wall where students and teachers can pin up questions they would like answering, van all help overcome the natural fear of being caught out not knowing.” S. Hastings
handouts 4 6 and 4 7

Handouts 4.6 and 4.7

Great use of departmental time…spend 25 minutes as a department using 4.6 to identify possible benefits and contexts for using each tactic with a particular class in mind.

Whilst 4.7 provides the basis for further discussion

effective questioning some general principles to conclude
Effective questioning…some general principles to conclude
  • Questioning can reinforce and revisit the learning objectives;
  • includes ‘staging’ questions to draw pupils towards key understanding or to increase the level of challenge in a lesson as it proceeds;
  • involves all pupils;
  • engages pupils in thinking for themselves;
  • “holding back on a new topic until the class has worked out what questions they would like answered in the course of the following lessons can get the curiosity juices flowing.” S. Hastings (TES July 2003)
  • promotes justification and reasoning;
  • creates an atmosphere of trust where pupils’ opinions and ideas are valued;
effective questioning
Effective questioning

Effective questioning:

  • shows connections between previous and new learning providing we have planned for this in our medium term planning
  • encourages pupils to speculate and hypothesise;
  • encourages pupils to ask as well as to ‘receive’ questions;
  • encourages pupils to listen and respond to each other as well as to the teacher.
the role of closed questions
The role of closed questions?
  • Emphasising factual recall is nothing new-studies in 1912, 1935 and 1970 also show that at least 60% of teachers’ questions simply required pupils to recall information

“This kind of questioning isn’t teaching at all. You don’t develop any thought processes-all you do is make those who don’t know the answer feel like failures.” Sue Jennings (Head of ITT at Exeter University)

ready for more if the answer is yes why not try some of these ideas
Ready for more?If the answer is yes why not try some of these ideas….
  • Use a tape or video recorder to record a whole-class question-and-answer session. Replay the tape to help you to evaluate the different aspects of your own questioning. You may find it useful to focus upon whether:

– you asked too many questions;

– you had a balance of open and closed, high- and low-order questions;

– you encouraged opinion, informed speculation and tentative answers;

– you handled incorrect answers effectively;

– you provided thinking time.

ready for more
Ready for more?
  • Begin to build key questions into your medium as well as short-term planning.
  • In a departmental meeting discuss how you might plan sequences of questions that build up pupils’ understanding of important concepts.
ready for more42
Ready for more?
  • If the answer is no, then just take some small steps by using some of the suggestions discussed…after all the biggest journeys start with the smallest of steps!
“Good learning starts with questions, not answers.” Guy Claxton
  • “Falling into the habit of asking only those pupils who are going to know the answer is a good way of ensuring a quick-moving lesson, but a poor way of developing thinking skills.” S. Hastings (TES July 2003)
  • “Asking good questions is the basis for becoming a successful learner. If children aren’t asking questions, they’re being spoon-fed. That might be effective in terms of getting results, but it won’t turn out curious, flexible learners suited to the 21st century.” Guy Claxton
“Of course, there’s the constraint of the curriculum, but teachers have to find time to explore the questions they are asked and the answers they are given. If children believe the teacher isn’t interested in what they have to say, they will stop saying anything at all.” G. Claxton