The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer – Alice Wellington Rollins

A question is any sentence which has an interrogative form or function. In classroom settings, teacher questions are defined as instructional cues or stimuli that convey to students the content elements to be learned and directions for what they are to do and how they are to do it.

Effective questioning is a real compliment to the instructional skills.  It shows the ability to understand the student’s real needs.  It shows that for meaning that’s deeper than the spoken message.  Effective questioning is a powerful, learned skill

Purposes of Questioning

Questioning are useful to instructors for effectively planning class participation activities, for designing homework assignments, and for writing exams.  It also helps the teacher to match their goals or objectives for an assignment with the actual components of the assignment

What are the purposes of teachers’ classroom questions? A variety of purposes emerges, including:

• To develop interest and motivate students to become actively involved in lessons.

• To help students learn to construct meaning, to relate concepts, to guide thinking

• To evaluate students’ preparation and check on homework or seatwork completion

• To develop critical thinking skills and inquiring attitude to understand how students form concepts

• To review and summarize previous lessons and, to summarize information

• To nurture insights by exposing new relationships, and to gain insight about students’ interests

• To reveal prior misconception, to diagnose strengths and weaknesses, and to help students set realistic expectations by providing feedback

• To evaluate, to assess achievement of instructional goals and objectives

• To stimulate students to pursue knowledge on their own and, to help students develop the habit of reflection, to increase students’ incentive to inquire, to discipline, manage, or control

• To encourage involvement of passive learner’s, and to give listening clues.

According to Kerry (1982), a teacher asks about 1000 questions per week. What purposes do these questions serve?

• To determine what students know and don’t know

• To develop critical and creative thinking skills

• To provide a review of material and content

• To prepare students for what is to be learned

• To check for comprehension or level of understanding

• To attract student attention

• To practice life-long learning skills

• To have fun learning

• To engage students in discussion

• To teach students to ask questions

For students, questioning strategies help to categorize and anticipate exam questions, allowing for more effective preparation. The strategies are also useful for study groups, focusing efforts and allowing members to test each other. They improve the student’s ability to clarify, reorganize, and accurately explain new information. Questioning also aids in self-assessment and self-monitoring.

Basis of Questioning skill

Questioning skills refer to one’s ability to formulate and respond to questions about situations, objects, concepts, and ideas. Questions may derive from oneself or from other people.

There are two levels of questions

Low-level questions refer to questions that require one to recall information that has been registered in memory. Low-level questions operate on the level of knowledge, drawing from one’s knowledge base of a subject.

The High-level questions encompass questions that require one to process information rather than simply recall it. High-level questions operate on one’s ability to comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information.

High-level questions may be further divided into two types:

Description questions require that one observe or describe an object using illustrations, demonstrations, maps, graphs, or tables. Examples of description questions are “What do you notice here?” and “Describe the object in front of you.”

Comparison questions require that one examine two or more objects or ideas and use statements or illustrations to identify similarities and differences. These are very effective high-level questions because they encourage students to process information in different ways. Examples of comparison questions are “What are the similarities and differences between the two objects?” and “Compare and contrast the two objects.”

Questions may also be dichotomized according to the number of answers they generate

Convergent Some questions are convergent, meaning there is only one correct answer. Convergent questions are sometimes called objective questions

Divergent questions, on the other hand, have more than one appropriate answer. They may be referred to as subjective questions.


Questioning can be put into two divisions: Open-Ended Questions and Closed-Ended Questions.

Open-Ended Questions:  Open-ended questions are questions without a fixed limit. An open question is likely to receive a long answer.

They encourage continued conversation, and help you get more information.  Plus, they often provide opportunities to gain insight into the other person’s feelings.  Open-ended questions draw out more information.  If you want the caller to open up, use open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, why, when, and how.

Open questions have the following characteristics:

• They ask the respondent to think and reflect.

• They will give you opinions and feelings.

• They hand control of the conversation to the respondent.

• Open questions begin with such as: what, why, how, describe.

• Using open questions can be scary, as they seem to hand the baton of control over to the other person. However, well-placed questions do leave you in control as you steer their interest and engage them where you want them.

• When opening conversations, a good balance is around three closed questions to one open question. The closed questions start the conversation and summarize progress, whilst the open question gets the other person thinking and continuing to give you useful information about them.

Closed-Ended Questions:  Closed-ended questions have a fixed limit. A closed question can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase.

They’re often answered with a yes or no, or with a simple statement of fact.  Closed-ended questions are used to direct the conversation.  They usually get specific information or confirm facts.

Closed questions have the following characteristics:

•They give you facts.

•They are easy to answer.

•They are quick to answer.

•They keep control of the conversation with the questioner.

We use the open-ended questions to get more information and the closed-ended questions to focus in on one area.


There are numerous types of questioning. A few are

Rhetorical: The rhetorical question is usually defined as any question asked for a purpose other than to obtain the information the question asks A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a reply. Rhetorical questions encourage the listener to think about what the (often obvious) answer to the question must be. When a speaker states, “How much longer must our people suffer with this wide spread corruption?”,no formal answer is expected. Rather, it is a rhetorical device used by the speaker to assert or deny something While sometimes amusing and even humorous, rhetorical questions are rarely meant for pure, comedic effect. A carefully crafted question can, if delivered well, persuade an audience to believe in the position(s) of the speaker is

Overhead: This type of question is NOT directed at any particular individual, but is asked of the entire class . . . “over their heads.” ASK – PAUSE – CALL. The ask-pause-call technique used in asking overhead questions allows every trainee in the class to profit from the thinking involved in the formulation of an answer. The overhead questioning technique is encouraged because your lead-off questions will start discussions

Direct: A direct question is asked of one person whom you call by name BEFORE asking the question. CALL – ASK – PAUSE for the answer. Direct questions are especially effective when you suspect an individual’s attention is wandering.

Relay: The relay technique places the instructor in the position of a moderator. The instructor accepts a question from a trainee, and then turns it over to another trainee to answer. This technique is very effective in promoting trainee participation and class discussion. Before doing this, bear in mind that you must be able to answer the question. This is not a duplicate. The fact that the mechanism for solving the problem is identical doesn’t matter, because it would be different use cases that would cause people to ask the question. So the people who want the “top down” approach would not be searching with the “sub site” question. So they would not be able to find the question.

Reverse: This. Closing questions as duplicates because they sound similar is destructive if the answers don’t/won’t/can’t be the same. Similarly, two superficially-different questions might be closed if the answers will be identical

Probing Questions: Sometimes you: the teacher ask an open-ended question to get more information and: the teacher you only get part of what: the teacher you need.  Now it’s time for a probing question.  A probing question is another open-ended question, but it’s a follow-up.  It’s narrower.  It asks about one area.  Probing questions are valuable in getting to the heart of the matter.

The Echo Question:  Here’s a good technique for getting more information.  : The teacher  can use this like a probing question.  The idea is to use the last part of a phrase the caller said.  Slightly raise the tone of your voice at the end of the phrase to convert it to a question.  Then pause and use silence

An echo question repeats part of the phrase that the student  used, using voice inflection to convert it to a question.  Some people call it mirroring or reflecting.  Others call it parroting.  We call it echoing.  Whatever you call it, it’s a valuable technique to use.

Leading Questions: Many things can be good or bad.  leading questions can also be good or bad.  Leading questions, if used improperly, can be manipulative because: the teacher  leading the student  to give the answer he want.  When they are used properly, you’re helping that student.  Leading questions often end with suggestive nudges toward the desired answer.  Some ending phrases would be, “Don’t you?”, “Shouldn’t you?”, “Won’t you?”, “Haven’t you?”, and “Right

Socratic questioning

Socratic questioning is at the heart of critical thinking and a number of homework problems draw from R.W. Paul’s six types of Socratic questions:

  1. Questions for clarification:
  2. Questions that probe assumptions:
  3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:
  4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:
  5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:
  6. Questions about the question:


Good questions are essential to effective communication between : the teacher  and the student: the teacher  who lack the skill to effectively question their student create disinterest and boredom on the part of the student. They also ignore a fine opportunity to open communication lines for determining the effectiveness of the lesson. Good questions expand on central thoughts, develops the subject, and not on minor, nice-to-know points. Let us look at some rules for asking questions.

• Distribute questions at random. Do not always ask the same student or those sitting in a particular area. Ask questions of the entire class to promote thinking in all students and get them involved.

•Acknowledge all answers to ensure incorrect or vague answers are clarified.

•Don’t  use catch or trick questions. Students will not participate and you could possibly lose them if they feel humiliated.

•Allow enough time for the student to think about and give an answer. Do not waste time waiting if the student clearly does not know the answer, but do not cut the student off before ample time is given for the complete though process or answer period.

•Begin questions with the words that require thoughtful answers, such as, “Why, When, How, What,” etc. Stay away from questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This will help stimulate and even guide students thinking.

•Avoid frequent group or choral responses. This method provides answers that are often unintelligible and errors that are hard to pick up.

•Do not waste time “pumping” a student . If the trainee does not know the answer, either offer an explanation or ask the question of another student.

Practicing Skill of Questioning

The skill of asking questions in the class room teaching is very important. By asking questions again and again, the teacher makes the pupils more thoughtful. He enables them to understand and subject deeply. Questions are those which help the pupils to think in depth about the various aspects of the problem. The teacher can use the questions in the following situations:


When a pupil expresses his inability to answer some question in the class or his answer is incomplete. In some question pupils get some prompting regarding the answer. The teacher can ask such questions when the pupil expresses his inability to answer or accept frankly that “he does not know.” The teacher can ask such questions which prompt the pupils in solving the already asked questions.

Seeking further information.

When the pupils answer correctly in the class but the teacher wants to seek more information. In class, when the pupils are unable to answer any question or answer partially, then in order to receive complete and correct answer, the teacher can ask such questions by accepting that the answer given is correct, but the pupil should reveal more. There can be alternate answer to the question asked such as elaborate your answer more or why do you consider your answer correct. In this way, the teacher can seek maximum information from the pupils.


Sometimes, the teacher can ask probing questions to concentrate the attention of the pupils. For the very same purpose, the teacher may ask same question from other pupil.. Sometime, the teachers are not satisfied with the pupils’ answers. They draw the attention of the pupils towards different situations where the similar problems can arise. This makes the transfer of learning possible.


If the teacher wants to introduce the pupils with various aspects of the problem in class room then he can ask the same question after slight changes in the language In class, the teacher tries to develop the reasoning power in the pupils by asking various questions. This enables the teacher to encourage the pupils for maximum participation.

Critical Awareness.

In order to develop the reasoning power of the pupils in class, the teacher can ask questions bearing ‘Why’, by getting motivate from such questions, pupils involve themselves in the process of reasoning. The questions bearing ‘Why’ and ‘How’ are asked. By asking such questions, the teacher can develop critical awareness in the pupils.

Guidelines for Classroom Questioning

Good questions should be carefully planned, clearly stated, and to the point in order to achieve specific objectives. Teacher understanding of questioning technique, wait time, and levels of questions is essential. Teachers should also understand that asking and responding to questions is viewed differently by different cultures. The teacher must be sensitive to the cultural needs of the students and aware of the effects of his or her own cultural perspective in questioning. In addition, teachers should realize that direct questioning might not be an appropriate technique for all students

Based on the foregoing findings from the research on classroom questioning, the following Recommendations are offered:

* Ask questions which focus on the salient elements in the lesson; avoid questioning students about extraneous matters.

* Incorporate questioning into classroom teaching/learning practices

* With older and higher ability students, ask questions before (as well as after) material is read and studied.

* Question younger and lower ability students only after material has been read and studied.

* When teaching students factual material, keep up brisk instructional pace, frequently posing lower cognitive questions.

* Ask a majority of lower cognitive questions when instructing younger and lower ability students. Structure these questions so that most of them will elicit correct responses

.* Ask a majority of higher cognitive questions when instructing older and higher ability students.

* In settings where higher cognitive questions are appropriate, teach students strategies for drawing inferences.

* Increase wait-time beyond three seconds when asking higher cognitive questions

* Keep  wait-time to about three seconds when conducting recitations involving a majority of lower cognitive questions?

* Be particularly careful to allow generous amounts of wait-time to students perceived as lower ability.

* Avoid vague or critical responses to student answers during recitations.

* During recitations, use praise sparingly and make certain it is sincere, credible, and directly connected to the students’ responses.

* Use redirection and probing as part of classroom questioning and keep these focused on salient elements of students’ responses.

Detailed instructions for teaching students to draw inferences.

The model offered by Pearson (1985) does provide some basic steps which can help students make connections between what they know and what they are seeking to learn. Pearson suggests that teachers complete all the steps in this process by way of demonstration, then gradually shift responsibility for all but the first step to the students.

1. Ask the inference question.

2. Answer it.

3. Find clues in the text to support the inference.

4. Tell how to get from the clues to the answer

Better pre-service training in the art of posing classroom questions, together with in-service training to sharpen teachers’ questioning skills, have potential for increasing students’ classroom participation and achievement. Increasing wait-time and the incidence of higher cognitive questions, in particular, have considerable promise for improving the effectiveness of classroom instruction.

Within these recitations, students follow a series of steps (consciously or unconsciously) in order to produce responses to the questions posed.

These steps include:

* Attending to the question

* Deciphering the meaning of the question

* Generating a covert response (i.e., formulating a response in one’s mind)

* Generating an overt response; and often

* Revising the response (based on teacher probing or other feedback)



Component of Probing Questions Skill                   Frequencies(In minutes)

1  2  3  4  5  6


Prompting questions were asked.

Questions seeking further information were asked.

Refocusing questions were asked.

Redirection was done.

Questions to create critical awareness were asked.

Advantages of Questioning Strategies

Questions and questioning techniques influence learners’ achievement, attitudes, and thinking skills. The level of the question tends to obtain a similar level of answer. Achievement can improve if high levels of questions are accompanied by wait-time, redirection, and probing techniques.

One advantage of questioning strategies is they are flexible and widely applicable. They may be tailored to fit the needs of different subjects, various types of information, and different levels of competence.

Questioning strategies may be used by instructors and students alike. Students may use the strategies with the help of a facilitator or they may develop the skills on their own.

Among the instructional skills, questioning holds a place of prominence in many classrooms. When questioning is used well:

• A high degree of student participation occurs as questions are widely distributed;

• An appropriate mix of low and high level cognitive questions is used;

• Student understanding is increased;

• Student thinking is stimulated, directed, and extended;

• Feedback and appropriate reinforcement occur;

• Students’ critical thinking abilities are honed; and,

• Student creativity is fostered.


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