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Questioning Strategies

Questions should play an important role in every classroom--both student questions and teacher questions. Teachers can create an active learning environment by encouraging students to ask and answer questions.

  • Make it easy for students to ask questions
  • Make time for questions
  • Wait for students to formulate questions
  • Ask other students to answer
  • Have students formulate questions prior to class
  • Plan some questions as you prepare
  • Ask clear, specific questions
  • Use vocabulary students can understand
  • Ask questions in an evenly-paced, easily identifiable order
  • Ask questions from all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
  • Use questions to help students connect important concepts
  • Use questions to give you feedback
  • Allow sufficient time for students to answer
  • Rephrase questions

Teacher Questions



Consider your instructional goals and emphasize questions that reinforce them. The questions you ask will help students see what topics you consider important.

ASK CLEAR, SPECIFIC QUESTIONS that require more than a yes or no answer. Avoid ambiguous or vague questions such as "What did you think of the short story?"

If a student does give you a yes/no or short answer, ask a follow up question that will encourage him/her to expand, clarify, or justify the answer.

USE VOCABULARY THAT STUDENTS CAN UNDERSTAND. Students cannot respond well to a question that contains unfamiliar terms.

ASK QUESTIONS IN AN EVENLY-PACED, EASILY IDENTIFIABLE ORDER. Students might be confused by random, rapid-fire questions. Use questions to signal a change of topic or direction in the lecture.

ASK QUESTIONS FROM ALL LEVELS of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Mixing more difficult questions that require synthesis and evaluation with simple questions that require memory and comprehension keeps students actively switching gears. For a more complete description of the major categories in the cognitive domain, see the section on testing.

USE QUESTIONS TO HELP STUDENTS CONNECT IMPORTANT CONCEPTS. (e.g., Now that we've learned about conservation of energy, how does this knowledge help us relate the kinetic and potential energy of an object?)

USE QUESTIONS TO GIVE YOU FEEDBACK on whether students have understood the material. (e.g., "Which part of the experiment was most difficult for you and why?").

ALLOW SUFFICIENT TIME FOR STUDENTS TO ANSWER your questions (10-15 seconds). Students need time to think and organize an answer before responding. Learn to wait until you get a student response. The silence can be uncomfortable sometimes, but it is necessary in order for students to know that you are serious about wanting an answer to your question. You can ask students to write down their response to a question, then call on several students to read their answers. This technique requires all students to become actively involved in thinking about your question.

REPHRASE QUESTIONS when students do not respond in the manner you expected. Admit that your original question might have been confusing.

  a. Make your classroom risk-free for asking questions. Banish the phrase "stupid question" from your vocabulary. Let students know the first day that you want and expect questions.

b. Solicit questions by asking:

- "What aspects of this material are unclear?"
- "Can I give another example to help you understand this topic?"
- "Can anyone add some examples to mine to help clarify this material?"
  MAKE TIME FOR QUESTIONS throughout your class. Do not leave the question time until the last 2 or 3 minutes. Students will assume that "Are there any questions?" is a signal for class to end.

WAIT FOR STUDENTS TO FORMULATE QUESTIONS. Be sure to allow pause time (10-15 seconds) for students to review their notes for areas that are unclear.

Again, you may ask students to write their question and then call on several students to read what they have written.

ASK OTHER STUDENTS TO ANSWER student questions. This will encourage a discussion among the class.


Anytime you assign reading, math problems, experiments, case studies, journal writing, etc., ask your students to prepare three questions they had while they were completing the assignment. Also, you might ask them to write three questions they would expect to answer on a quiz covering the material they encountered. Begin class by having your students share their questions in small groups or as a whole. Their questions not only will stimulate discussion but also will allow you to determine confusing aspects of the material. In addition, being able to anticipate questions a teacher will ask on exams is an important study skill for students to develop.