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1    Preparation
     • Prepare key questions before the class and write them into your lesson plan.
     • Gives an opportunity to look at the balance of questions being asked.
     • Allows you to provide a development sequence in the level of difficulty of the
     • Allows for variety in your questions.
     • Allows you to anticipate possible difficulties that students may have in
       understanding the subject content, so you can improve your presentation.

2    Purposefulness
     • Consider the curriculum objectives, content and materials.
     • Frame questions which will help students to understand the lesson material.
     • Sequence questions to give students opportunities to express their own
       thoughts on the topic.
     • Students must see the point of questioning if they are to develop their level of

3    Consideration
     • Consider level of ability, experience, and previous knowledge of the class.
     • Consider ability of individual students.
     • Use appropriate language.

4    Interest
     • Show genuine interest and enthusiasm for ideas and feelings of students.
     • React to students’ answers in an encouraging way.
     • Use questioning to promote a classroom climate of collaboration and

5    Evaluation
     • After a class, evaluation of key questions gives useful information on questioning
       technique and on student development and understanding of the topic.
     • Recognise difficulties that students face in answering certain types of
     • Reflect on questioning and use the information when preparing questions for
       subsequent classes.

     Remember good questioning means:
     • students are actively involved in their learning
     • gives students opportunities to think creatively and solve problems

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     The five principles of good questioning established earlier in these Resource
     Notes are:
                                    •   Preparation
                                    •   Purpose
                                    •   Consideration
                                    •   Interest
                                    •   Evaluation
     Questioning will be more effective if you prepare key questions before the
     lesson and include them in your lesson plan. Session 4 and these resources
     notes will help you to apply the skills of structuring, phrasing, focusing and
     sequencing to the preparation of your questions. You should be able to:
     • describe various types of questions and their uses in learning activities;
     • use the skills of structuring, phrasing, focusing and sequencing questions;
     • identify good questions and poor questions;
     • prepare questions that encourage learning.

                               TYPES OF QUESTIONS

     ‘What types of questions can you ask your students?’

       Preparatory Questions

       Used at the beginning of a topic, lesson or section of a lesson to:
       - establish interest
       - gain attention
       - recall prior learning or past experience
       - link new topic with prior knowledge
       - revise previously-learned knowledge and skills.

       ‘Last lesson we used the handsaw. What are the main uses of the handsaw?’
       ‘Here are six other types of saw. Which one would you use to make curved

                                        Rhetorical Questions
       - A question that does not require an answer.
       - Used for its dramatic effect to stimulate thinking, arouse interest or introduce
         a topic.
       - Designed to make students think about a question, gather their thoughts, but
         not disclose them.
       ‘Is Management by Objectives a soundly based concept?’

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                                        Direct Questions
       - Used to check understanding.
       - Useful in providing a progressive summary.
       - Directed to a particular student.
       ‘Why do you add the acid to the water, rather than the water to the acid?’

                                        Leading Questions
       - Help the student to give the correct response to the question.
       - Used to build student confidence.
       - Because the response is a positive one, it is more likely to be remembered.
      ‘Would you give the person an invoice, a receipt or a statement for their

                                        Overhead Questions
       -   One which experts an answer from any member of the class.
       -   Asked to the class generally.
       -   An individual student is called upon to answer it.
       -   Main use is to gather opinion and promote discussion.
       ‘Which is more important, the right equipment or the people who operate it?’

       Development Questions
       - Develop students’ ability to use logic and reasoning and apply it to new
       - Used instead of lengthy explanations by the teacher.
       - Used at any stage of the lesson to lead students to discover theories, facts,
       ‘So, as you increase the magnification, what happens to the size of the field of
       view that you can see?’

                                        Recapitulatory or Summary Questions
       -   Used at the end of a lesson or segment in the lesson to summarise key points.
       -   Used to evaluate the level of learning and understanding.
       -   Intended to aid transfer of learning to the real situation.
       -   Should involve the higher levels of questions; application, analysis,
           synthesis, evaluation.
       ‘In your own workplace, what are the main ways of avoiding RSI?’

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          Remember, questions are only as good as the answers they create!

                               3. PREPARATION SKILLS
The skills required in preparing questions are:

      • Structuring
        - relate your questions to the learning objectives for the topic
        - ask questions that are appropriate to the
          students
          topic
          level of learning or depth of knowledge required;
        - provide a general framework within which the purpose and meaning of
          individual questions is clear.

      •      Phrasing
           - make the wording as clear and as brief as possible;
           - use words that students can understand;
           - do not use long, rambling questions that are difficult to follow;
           - use key words that tell students what they have to do to answer the
             Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?
             Explain, Describe, Compare, Contrast, Define, etc;
           - write questions in your lesson plan in the words that you will use when
             you ask them.

      •     Focusing
           - refers to the scope of the question;
           - a broad question gives all students an opportunity to contribute, and is
             good for stimulating discussion;
           - a narrow question will result in few answers because it is more specific,
             and is useful for building up facts and ideas;
           - ask just one thing at a time; break questions requiring multiple answers
             into questions.
              multifocus or ‘double-barrelled’ questions require students to perform
                several operations or tasks simultaneously.
              this may discourage students who can only complete some of the tasks.
              these questions lead to confusion by the student who is unsure of which
                to attend to first.
           - avoid questions requiring a simple choice of two given answers as these
            questions encourage guessing rather than thinking.

      • Sequencing
        - development in questions from lower levels (recall, restate) towards more
          complex levels (apply, analyse, synthesis, evaluate);
        - need not be a strictly linear development;
        - avoid strictly random variation without purpose;
        - use questions to build gradually towards clarification of an issue or
          establishment of a general concept.

           Plan your questions:
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         •   Relate to learning objectives
         •   Write into lesson plan
         •   Mix levels and types
         •   Keep wording brief and clear
         •   Use key words
         •   Ask one question at a time
         •   Don’t use questions requiring a choice of two given answers
         •   Draw on student opinion and experience
         •   Be clear on their purpose

         Plan your questions and be clear on their purpose.

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     Classifying questions according to the level of thinking required to answer them,
     is based loosely on the work of Benjamin Bloom etal (1956). Bloom suggested a
     taxonomy of educational objectives in which each class subsumed the operations
     of the preceding class. Describing the levels of questions that TAFE teachers
     may use will help you to determine whether your questions range over a variety
     of thinking levels. Your questions should range widely, but not randomly, across
     the levels suggested.
     The six categories of questions are questions that ask respondents to:

      1       Recall facts
          -   What are the names of….?
          -   How many classifications are there?
          -   Where can these be found?

      2       Restate information in their own words
          -   Tell me how you did it?
          -   Describe what you saw when…..
          -   What was the story about?
          -   Explain what you think are the causes of ….

      3       Apply information to a particular situation
          -   How would you use this method on …?
          -   If this bit were changed, how would it work?
          -   What do you think will happen when …?
          -   What would happen if these conditions changed?
          -   What effects would this decision have if …?

      4       Analyse information into components parts
          -   In what ways are these two objects alike?
          -   Why did this happen?
          -   What’s the difference between these two ideas?
          -   In what ways are these two ideas alike?
          -   What do you think causes this effect?

      5     Synthesise information or extract a general principle from given
          -   What do these things have in common?
          -   What is the relationship between these things?
          -   How could you explain these seemingly unrelated events?

      6       Make judgements or evaluate information
          -   Why do you think this is better?
          -   Why aren’t the others as good?
          -   What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of these options?

     If you are familiar with these six categories of questions, and use the various levels
     of questions, you will help your students to achieve the objectives of the curriculum.

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     Should you encourage students to ask questions? What is the value of students
     asking questions?

     Asking questions is an important part of the ‘Get to Know’ stage of learning.
     Students’ questions also provide an opportunity for the teacher to get feedback
     on the students’ level of understanding of the topic.

     Management of students’ questions is just as critical as your technique for
     asking questions.

                      ? How should you respond to ……

     a) Students’ questions that are relevant to the topic currently being discussed?
         • Repeat inaudible questions, or ask the student to do so, so the whole class
           is aware of the question.
         • Ask for a response from a student if the answer should be known by them.
         • Give a clear and concise answer.
         • Make sure the answer is completely understood by the whole class.

     b) A student question which is not relevant to the current topic?
         • Judge its relevance;
         • Explain why you would prefer not to answer it now, but will happily
           discuss it at the next break;
         • Sometimes an ‘off the track’ question is of interest to all, and attention will
           be distracted if it not answered; deal with it quickly and get back ‘on

     c) A student question which has already been explained?
         •   May be an indication that other students have not understood either;
         •   Ask if anyone else in the class can explain;
         •   Explain in a different way, using new examples;
         •   Make a note to improve your lesson planning.

     d) A student question which is about something that you intend to explain
         • Generally, it is better to answer question as they arise;
         • If this is inappropriate, tell the student that you intend to deal with that
           later and it will make better sense if you leave it until then;
         • Compliment the student for being perceptive.

     e) A student question which is about something to which you don’t know the
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        • Ask if anyone in the class can answer the question;
        • Admit that you don’t know; it is not possible for teachers to know
        • Do not try to bluff; you will inevitably expose your ignorance;
        • You should find out the answer as soon as possible and let the class know.


     Some of the common pitfalls that teachers encounter in the questioning process

     •   Over-questioning
     -   may stifle classroom discussion;
     -   remember to have a purpose in asking questions;
     -   does not encourage ‘thinking’ to occur, but allows students to answer
         questions as a mechanical process.
      Plan for quality, rather than quantity.

     •   Repeating Questions
     -   may be necessary if a question has not been heard clearly;
     -   if a teacher asks several unanswered questions in quick succession, rather
         than a single question followed by student responses, learning will be
      Ask questions briefly, clearly and audibly so that students can understand
       the meaning immediately without further elaborating questions being

     •   Answering Your Own Questions
     -   this destroys the purpose of questioning!
     -   causes student frustration and may lead to withdrawl from the lesson.
      Proceed at a relaxed pace and give students time to think and time to

     •   Repeating Students’ Answers
     -   limited repetition may be necessary when clarification is required;
     -   excessive repetition slows down the pace of the lesson;
     -   leads to unnecessary teacher intrusion in discussion;
     -   inhibits development of good listening habits by students;
     -   inhibits other students in responding to the student’s answer.
      Encourage students to speak clearly so that everyone can hear their
      If the answer is inaudible, ask the student to repeat it.

     •     Questioning for Chorus Answers

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       How useful are questions such as:
      ‘Do you all …?’
      ‘Does everybody …?’

     •   POSE the question to the whole class
     •   PAUSE to give everyone time to think
     •   PICK someone to answer the question


     Evaluation is the fifth principle of good questioning. Record a classroom lesson
     while you are teaching. As you listen to the tape, each participant should keep a
     tally of your questioning technique.

     Which questioning skills did you use

     •   most frequently?
     •   in a limited way?
     •   not at all?

     Which skills could you use more effectively?

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