121: Questioning Strategies Research




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Researching Findings & Implications
  1. Teachers ask many questions.
    • Research studies shows results between 1-4 questions per minute
    • No studies linking number of questions to student learning
    • Research shows that no questioning is worse than having questioning (even if it’s low level)
    • Implications:
      • Questions promote student learning
      • Teachers should plan questions to ensure alignment to objectives and to stimulate student thinking
      • A few carefully prepared questions are preferable to large numbers of questions.
  2. Most teacher questions are at the lowest cognitive level (fact, recall, knowledge)
    • Only 20% require thinking at high levels
    • Mixed results on tie between cognitive levels of questions and student achievement
    • Higher-level questions promote development of thinking skils
    • Implications:
      • Teachers should plan questions that get students to engage in higher level thinking.
      • Teachers should prepare questions at varied levels of thinking.
      • Teachers should help students become aware of varied levels of thinking.
  3. Not all students are accountable to respond to questions.  Teachers frequently call on volunteers and these constitute a select group of students.
    • Target students (Frequent volunteers) talk more than 3x more than their classmates
    • 25% of students don’t participate at all
    • Students who regularly answer questions in discussion do better on standardized tests
    • Implications:
      • Teachers, not students, should decide who answers questions.
      • Teachers should use strategies that give ALL students opportunities to participate.
      • Teachers should promote classroom norms that value all student responses and questions.
  4. Teachers typically wait less than one second after asking a question before calling on a student (Wait Time 1).  They wait even less time before speaking after students has answered (Wait Time 2)
    • Longer wait times (1 and 2) have been shown to increase quality of student participation.
    • Implications:
      • Wait times 1 and 2 give students time for students to process and give better quality responses.
      • Silence is golden.
  5. Teachers often accept incorrect answers without probing; they frequently answer their own questions.
    • Many teachers are reluctant to provide feedback to students who provide incorrect answers.
    • Nearly half of student responses are at a different cognitive level than teacher questions, yet teachers generally accept their answers as sufficient without probing for correct responses.
    • Probing is positively correlated with student achievement.
    • Implications:
      • When the norms is that all students can give correct responses, teachers give prompts (when necessary) that guide students to correct responses.
      • When students give incomplete or incorrect responses, teachers should seek to understand those answering using probing questions.
  6. Students ask very few content related questions
    • Asking questions stimulates understanding and engagement
    • Implications:
      • Student questions are essential to deep engagement with and learning of content.
      • Teachers should help students formulate good questions and make time for student questions.
Challenges to Following Through on Good Questioning Strategies:
  • Pressure to cover too much material
  • Fear of embarrassing a student
  • Silence during wait time is uncomfortable
  • Need to keep things moving
  • Get caught up in excitement of the lesson
  • Lack of patience
  • Lack of awareness of wait time lapses
  • Need to keep students active and engaged
  • Lack of ability to develop good higher order questions and good probing questions
  • Teacher driven vs. student driven classrooms
Reflection Questions:
  • Classroom Norms:
    • Does my classroom have and support norms that value inquiry and thoughtful dialogue?
    • Have I communicated these norms to my students and have them think about their impact on their learning?
  • Scaffolding Behaviors:
    • Do I use a variety of formats to engage students in answering questions?
    • Have students learned rules that go with different formats?
  • Student-Centered:
    • Do I see myself as a facilitator of student learnings as opposed to a singular content expert?
    • Are students responsible for constructing their own answers to questions and their own meanings to those questions and answers?
    • Do students approach learning as a collaborative endeavor involving themselves, their peers and the teacher?
  • Awareness of Best Practices:
    • Have you talked with students about the value of quality questioning on their learning experiences?
    • How you taught your students how to formulate good questions?


Questioning best practices have been shown to increase student engagement and student learning.  Knowing about the well-meaning common pitfalls of questioning practices can make one aware of what questioning strategies are missing or need improvements in one’s classroom routines.  Understanding the implications of research related to questioning strategies can help one set better norms and use better practices to promote quality questioning and responding.


Preparation Steps
  • Videotape a lesson.
  • Analyze video to see how questioning strategies compare to research findings and implications above.
  • Reflect on reflection questions.  See above.
  • Research and brainstorm strategies to improve questioning strategies.  See Questioning Strategies articles.
  • Set up and promote classroom norms that promote inquiry and thoughtful dialogues.
  • Research various strategies for calling on ALL students during discussions.
  • Prepare questions that cover varied thinking levels for upcoming lessons
Early Implementation Steps
  • Ask students questions that cover varied thinking levels.
  • Allow students enough process time to give high quality responses.
  • Ask probing questions to learn more about incomplete or incorrect responses.
  • Use variety of strategies to give responding opportunities to ALL students.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Deliberated design questions that cover 6 facets of understanding and all Bloom’s levels.
  • Teach students cognitive models and how to formulate questions at all levels of various cognitive models – 6 facets of understanding, Bloom’s taxonomy.

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