Effective Teacher Questioning Techniques

How Teachers Can Ask the Best Questions

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Asking questions is an important part of any teacher's daily interaction with their students. Questions provide teachers with the ability to check on and enhance student learning. However, it is important to note that not all questions are created equal. According to Dr. J. Doyle Casteel, "Effective Teaching," effective questions should have a high response rate (at least 70 to 80 percent), be evenly distributed throughout the class, and be a representation of the discipline being taught.

What Types of Questioning Are Most Effective?

Typically, questioning habits of teachers are based on the subject being taught and our own past experiences with classroom questions. For example, in a typical mathematics class, questions might be rapid fire - question in, question out. In a science class, a typical situation might occur where the teacher talks for two to three minutes then poses a question to check understanding before moving on. An example from a social studies class might be when a teacher asks questions to start a discussion allowing other students to join in. All of these methods have their uses and a complete, experienced teacher uses all three of these in their classroom.

Referring again to "Effective Teaching," the most effective forms of questions are those that either follow a clear sequence, are contextual solicitations, or are hypothetico-deductive questions. In the following sections, we will look at each of these and how they work in practice.

Clear Sequences of Questions

This is the simplest form of effective questioning. Instead of directly asking students a question such as "Compare Abraham Lincoln's Reconstruction Plan to Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction Plan," a teacher would ask a clear sequence of little questions that lead up to this larger overall question. The 'little questions' are important because they establish the basis for the comparison which is the ultimate goal of the lesson.

Contextual Solicitations

Contextual solicitations provide a student response rate of 85-90 percent. In a contextual solicitation, a teacher is providing a context for the coming question. The teacher then prompts an intellectual operation. Conditional language provides a link between the context and the question that is to be asked. Here is an example of a contextual solicitation:

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo Baggins is attempting to get the One Ring to Mount Doom to destroy it. The One Ring is seen as a corrupting force, negatively affecting all who have extended contact with it. This being the case, why is Samwise Gamgee unaffected by his time wearing the One Ring?

Hypothetico-Deductive Questions

According to research cited in "Effective Teaching," these types of questions have a 90-95% student response rate. In a hypothetico-deductive question, the teacher starts by providing the context for the coming question. They then set up a hypothetical situation by providing conditional statements like assume, suppose, pretend, and imagine. Then the teacher links this hypothetical to the question with words like, given this, however, and because of. In summary, the hypothetico-deductive question must have context, at least one curing conditional, a linking conditional, and the question. Following is an example of a hypothetico-deductive question:

The film we just watched stated that the roots of sectional differences that led to the US Civil War were present during the Constitutional Convention. Let's assume that this was the case. Knowing this, does that mean that the US Civil War was inevitable?

The typical response rate in a classroom not using the above questioning techniques is between 70-80%. The discussed questioning techniques of "Clear Sequence of Questions," "Contextual Solicitations," and "Hypothetico-Deductive Questions" can increase this response rate to 85% and above. Further, teachers who use these find that they are better at using wait time. Further, the quality of student responses increases greatly. In summary, we as teachers need to try and incorporate these types of questions in our daily teaching habits.

Source: Casteel, J. Doyle. Effective Teaching. 1994. Print.