Fermi Questioning


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Fermi Questioning Teacher

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How can a teacher improve their questioning technique and increase impact?

We have previously shared Fermi Questioning in a full post to introduce to our regular readers, the physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Enrico FermiFermi questions are just one of the many questioning ideas that can found in the Questioning Technique Pocketbook by Gorden Pope. This video offers a short explanation.

What Is Fermi Questioning?

Fermi challenged his students to use estimation, common sense and numerical reasoning to work out quantities that were difficult or impossible to measure. He deliberately posed questions with limited information so that students had to ask more questions. His questions emphasise the process rather than the answer to encourage creative thinking and a range of problem-solving skills requiring students to be logical and inventive.

Video Explanation

The beauty of this type of question framing, is when good routines are established in the classroom, the impact is palpable. So much so, those moments when the printer is jammed, or when a senior colleagues walks by your open door and asks for ‘a quick word with you outside’ the classroom, posing a (planned) Fermi question gives students an open-ended problem – with no exact answer or definite solution – which is instantaneously steered towards the learning intentions. When pitched with precision, students become interested, motivated, challenged and rewarded.

With deliberate practice, a teacher can create a culture of curiosity in any subject which can give them valuable breathing space and/or fascinating discussions. The difficulty for teachers, is ensuring that students don’t call out and are given enough time to reflect on the answer, before being targeted by name.

Watch the video introduction and discover a whole set of examples.


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