How can teachers improve their questioning effectiveness?
My supporting resource to this article below can now be found on the resources page. I have to say, it is one of my favourite resources and strategies to use in the classroom.
This was originally posted on 2012 and was redrafted in 2013 and in 2019. This article features on The Guardian Teacher Network in 2011.
I have decided to elaborate on this AfL strategy, before sharing it with the world via The Guardian Teacher Network Blog. I am scribbling up my experience of this as the requests from Twitter were numerous, so I want to keep to my promise and get this published.
Firstly, as with any classroom ideas, this concept is not mine. Ideas are developed by teachers through sharing concepts with one another. In this case, I credit a colleague who shared the idea with me and my staff on a INSET day I had organised The Crest Academies. I have since spoken with Dylan Wiliam who has a number of resources and has championed the idea. He says a teacher had passed the PPPB analogy to him. I do take credit for any reference to Winnie The Pooh analogies fixed to Pose Pause Pounce Bounce – and also apologise for this (…the impact of having a newborn at home).
The CPD session was delivered by the fabulous Mrs. Pam Fearnley. If you ever needed someone to give your team a reality-check on teaching and learning, she is the woman for the job – firm, entertaining and inspiring.
(2019: Note the header photo is a staff training session in 2015 where @ActionJackson helped to deliver a team-building session based on teaching strategies. Hence why I’m dressed as Tigger!)
What is PPPB?
It is a simple, yet sophisticated, AfL questioning technique to help teachers move from good-to-outstanding. It also helps address differentiation in the classroom and encourages teachers to take a risk.
Why is it useful?
This technique was a whole-school initiative deployed through our Teaching and Learning group with the fabulous Mr. John Bayley. The strategy encouraged teachers to take risks and tease out the ‘learning’ in class. It also developed our school focus on differentiating objectives and learning experiences by varying our questioning techniques. NO more closed questions! I have listed the 4-part approach below with additional information that I hope explains the method.
Give the context of your approach to the class. No teaching and learning strategy is effective without pupils understanding your methodology.
Insist on hands down before the question is delivered. Provide a question or a series of questions, ensuring that you ask the students to remain reflective. Pause and wait for as long as possible before anyone is asked to answer…
This is the hard part. i.e. Ask the class to hold the thought; ….think; ….think again! If students are captivated and engaged, try holding the silence for a little while longer and push the boundaries.
Insist the answer to the question comes from student A and possibly student B, directly and fast! Of course plan in your mind who you are going to ask, before speaking to the class. Name student A to respond and don’t move.
Possibly don’t speak and nip any comments, grunts or noises in the bud! Its magic when you can hear, see and feel a captivated learning audience. We’ve all seen it. Wait for an answer…. pause…. decipher the support needed if no response is evidently on its way. (Of course, at this stage, you can instigate various strategies for peers to support the questionable student A)
If student A does manage to answer, the fun part starts here!
Ask another student B (immediately) after the POUNCE response, their opinion of student A’s answer.
This can be developed by asking student B and C their opinions to student A’s response, irrespective if the answer is correct or not. An additional strategy is to bounce the question to group A…and subsequently, a sub-group B if group A does not deliver a suitable way forward. this ensures the teacher is engaging a significant number of students with the question at hand, whilst using this strategy, it also ensures the entire class can be called upon at any given time by just returning to phase 1 or phase 3.
Many, many teachers are very reluctant to hold onto a question or a stumbling block in class. I know because I have done it, but my greatest lessons are often the ones that involve this questioning ethos being established from the outset and (me) not being afraid to tease out ‘why?’ student A or B thinks the way they do… Don’t tell students the answer straight away. You are doing their own thinking-processes a dis-service. Ensure that all your students understand a concept. Test it before moving on.
Try it tomorrow?
Don’t accept student E or student K shouting out the answer to maintain pace or behaviour. Don’t allow student T to answer the question because (you know they won’t let you down and) they will help you move on in an observation.
Explore! Tease the topic in hand… Teasing out their thinking skills and understanding it, is far more important than moving onto the next page in the lesson. That’s what learning is all about, right?
The questioning technique can be further deployed by developing a series of targeted-questions linked in with Blooms Taxonomy. There is an example of my worksheet here and this can be adjusted to suit any topic and a list of students names can be scribbled in, alongside the (level/grade) rows.
There is a Powerpoint version here.
02/07/2013: Video demo of Pose Pause Pounce Bounce Questioning in Physical Education by @MikeHarrowell
Enjoy exploring and teasing…and if you do, please tweet me back and tell me how it went. Please use the #PPPB hashtag. This strategy is now part of my everyday practice.
After 5 years, I finally caught up with Pam Fearnley at the ASCL annual conference in March 2015. It was great to re-connect! Credit: Pam Fearnley (for PPPB idea via Pupils First Ltd.)