Questioning Techniques: Types of Questions


“Teachers’ skill in questioning and in leading discussions is valuable for many instructional purposes, eliciting student reflection and challenging deeper student engagement” (Danielson, 1996, p. 92).

Unskilled questioning focuses on “rapid-fire, short-answer, low-level questions” as vehicles for checking students’ knowledge. Danielson calls this “’recitation’ rather than ‘discussion’, because the questions are not true questions but rather a form of a quiz in which teachers elicit from students their knowledge on a particular topic. …poor questions…are boring, comprehensible to only a few students, or narrow—the teacher has a single answer in mind even when choices are possible” (p. 92).

Skilled questioning engages students in a true exploration of content. When they are carefully crafted and framed, questions “enable students to reflect on their understanding and consider new possibilities.” Students are allowed “think time” before responses are expected and teachers often “probe a student’s answer, seeking clarification or elaboration through such questions as, ‘Could you give an example of…?’ or ‘Would you explain what you mean?’

Additionally, well-led classroom discussions are animated and they engage all students in important questions to extend, not just recall, knowledge. In well-run discussions, teachers serve as “guides on the side,” encouraging students to take center stage, comment on others’ responses and request further explanations; the teacher sets the stage, while students are expected to assume considerable responsibility for the depth and breadth of discussions. Everyone participates, not just the “few star students.” The teacher is not waiting for “the right answer.” Well-run discussions also encourage students to pose questions. Where this happens, teachers are encouraging students to develop critical and creative thinking skills and to engage in analytical thinking; students often engage more deeply and are more motivated to participate when they are encouraged to be the questioners. In this type of discussion, “the perspectives of all students are sought; all voices are heard.”

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