Improving questioning techniques

Improving questioning techniques

It has been a few months since I have started to implement and improve on my questioning techniques. I have embedded what I have learnt from the CPD session and engaged in relevant literature and tried to cooperate that in the classroom.

Firstly, I started to embed “higher level” questions into my presentation when I am delivering content to my A level students to act as retrieval cues for myself. This allows me remember what I need to ask students as I am new to teaching. This has been useful as I am now able to engage students in certain questions. It has also helped me identify students who are struggling with high order thinking questions.

Now, as part of their course it is essential that the A level students can demonstrate this skill during their exams as their exams are based on justifying and evaluating research in order to demonstrate their understanding. Therefore, this is a not only do they need to developed, but I need to facilitate in this development. This therefore led me to my own personal research.

Geoff Petty (2004) states that when questioning it is important to “teach for understanding, rather than just for knowing” i.e. rather than simply asking them a question to see if they remember a researcher name or its research, ask what the implications of that research as this helps stimulate students minds. They are thinking what it means rather than what it is.

There was an incident, where I asked a student to describe the behaviourist approach. Instead of describing the approach, he incorrectly described the social learning theory. Instead of telling him it was wrong and describing, the difference between the two approaches. I asked him why he gave me that answer. There was a pause. He was thinking about it. Then he remembered that why his answer was wrong. I was so tempted to give him the answer but I did not instead I challenged his thought processes (cognitive approach) a concept that Petty refers to as “unlearning”.  This allowed him to realise his mistake himself, without me actually giving the answer to him. From there on, he understood the difference as he was actively thinking about it. This process encouraged me to “teach for understanding”.

Also, asking students questions allows students to engage in active learning. However, the description above is based on 1:1 interaction. However, as I have started to become more aware of this I started to engage the whole class in the same process. Ask a student a question and if its wrong challenge him or her, or ask another person for the answer, and then ask someone else, the most important question of “why”. This helps them understand the question rather than just knowing the information. I have also learnt other ways such as applying that knowledge to rela life situations.

What I have learnt is that it is important to create an atmosphere where students are not afraid of giving wrong answers. If they are scared to be challenged, they will not enjoy the process. When I was doing my GCSE Maths (many years ago!), I remember that my Maths teacher use to “pick” on students to complete the 33.3 times table backwards from a certain number. It was impossible! I hated the lesson and I hated that time. I was scared that I will picked on and instead of feeling relaxed, I felt scared. I knew I would not know the answer and that always resulted in “why don’t you know, you are in top set” which effected my self-esteem.

Therefore, based on my personal experience, I feel that it is important to create a positive atmosphere. I have ensured that students are met with praises during the lesson so they feel that they are worthy and they do know the answer. This comes from what Petty refers to as “extrinsic of positive reinforcement” where teachers give praises to students, this in effect, will encourage students to ask questions, as they know their teacher believes in them.

This also encourages student-teacher relationship where there is mutual respect between the two and again this encourages learning.

PS 1, PS10

Petty, Geoff (2009). Teaching Today: A Practical Guide. 4th ed. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.


CPD – Effective Questioning

CPD – Effective Questioning

The first issue that i need to address is questioning. As questioning was an area that I needed to improve on (as stated on my first college observation), I signed up to an effective questioning techniques CPD session with Jo Tildesley (27.01.17).

From the session, I realised that, I tend to quickly give the answers to the questions when they do not know it. Instead, she said that when you ask questions you should not let the students answer straight away. Instead, you should ask a question and then let a student answer, once they have answered ask another student if that answer is correct, ask another, why it is correct, ask another to back it up with research. Like this, you are not assessing one or two students but you are engaging the whole class, as they are aware that you might ask a direct question to them. By asking certain questions, the answer that you get through this technique can even answer a 16-mark question, which includes evaluation points.

What is useful about this technique is that it helps engage the whole class. Students will pay more attention because

  1. They want to know the answers
  2. They are more likely to be selected so they pay attention as they know the teacher is assessing them
  3. It becomes a joint effort
  4. Students are using higher order thinking which has been stated by the cognitive approach to be effective

In addition, it is not simply teacher-led although I feel that majority of A level should be teacher-led but that does not mean some aspects of the lesson don’t need to be. I am going to cooperate this into my lesson now and see how effective this could be.

PS 1

The Education and Training Foundation(2014) Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers – England. Available at: