3 Questioning Strategies To Influence Your Teaching, And Your Workload

Reading time: 2
Three Questioning Strategies


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

Where should teachers invest their time and energy in the classroom?

It’s important that all teachers develop a wide repertoire of questioning strategies.

I’m a huge fan of questioning and teacher scripts.

The benefits of using questioning as an assessment tool for pupils retention, behaviour and self-regulation are immeasurable, not to mention the long-term impact on teacher workload, in and out of the classroom.

New research recommends that class dialogue helps students elaborate and activates hard thinking. Here are three of my favourite strategies that will help you do this.

1. Think-Pair-Share

Most teachers know and use ‘think-pair-share’, but how can they use it more productively?

While this strategy can be effective, it’s important to ensure students are actually thinking about your question. Whether students are sitting or standing, talking aloud or sitting quietly, how do you really know that they are thinking about your question?

A simple strategy to combat this is to ask students to write down their responses on paper before sharing their answers with another student. As simple as it sounds, it is a direct way to ensure all students have thought about an answer and have prepared a response. Read this now to tweak how you do this technique!

To support retrieval from long-term memory, the teacher should also ask pupils to say the answer out loud, or ‘show me’.

2. Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce

When deciding on what question to ‘pose’, a teacher must instil questioning behaviours to ensure the desired response. For example:

  1. Hands down
  2. Hands up
  3. ‘What is [the answer to] X?’ followed by a pupil’s name.

Once students are clear about the questioning methodology used, the teacher should ‘pause’ to give students thinking time. Why? Well, firstly, pupils need time to think about what has been asked. Secondly, this gives pupils valuable time to process and help reduce cognitive load.

The ‘pause’ itself serves to reduce any unnecessary information (extraneous load) and in my opinion, helps a teacher to refine their instruction. Be clear and precise.

The ‘pounce’ (personally) should follow the advice below in-keeping with Cold Call. All students should be ready to answer. The ‘bounce’ is essential and that the ‘pounce’ response is passed on to another pupil, rather than the teacher evaluating the initial response.

This is a strategy I’ve used for 15 years, coined by one of my colleagues, it rose to popularity when I wrote about it in The Guardian. It’s simple in theory, but difficult to practise.

3. No Opt Opt

Teachers must increase their success rate when posing questions to the whole class. This requires asking all pupils to keep their hands down and be ready to respond. Questions such as, ‘Who can tell me?’ invite pupils is to either call out or put their hands up.

If a pupil cannot be bothered to respond or doesn’t know the answer, they will simply opt out because the language used subconsciously highlights this. The teacher must instil a sense of rigour into the classroom.

When using the no opt-out strategy, pupils need to know that if they do not know the answer, or refuse to offer a response, they must know that the teacher will navigate the classroom (to develop thinking) and return to the original pupil to articulate a response.

‘Saying it out aloud’ is the act of retrieval.

It’s not the number of questions you ask, but the type of strategies you use, when and why. As ever, it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. That’s what gets results…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.