Mastering the Art and Science of Classroom Questioning

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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...
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How many questions does a teacher pose in one school day?

Asking questions helps us to understand one another. Posing them allows us to gather more information and helps us to process the world around us.

Not all questions are effective!

As humans, we ask other people questions every day. In our personal lives, we probably do this subconsciously, yet in the classroom, posing key questions is a conscious decision that teachers make.

One of the first systematic reviews into questioning in the first half of the twentieth century found that teacher questions and student answers occupied approximately ‘80 per cent of the average school day’ (Stevens, 1912, p.22).

As teachers, we deliberately ask students approximately 300 questions on a daily basis. Many of them are conversational, ad hoc and subconscious. Occasionally one or two are explicit and designed to draw out misconceptions, check for understanding, inspire or hold individual students to account.

Yet, not all questions asked may be effective, lead to action or to a correct response.

Some of the questions that a teacher might ask could be poorly framed, mistimed or (accidentally) provocative. As a result, this can lead to dismissive and non-verbal responses or maybe aggressive behaviour, which is counterintuitive to the work teachers are trying to achieve in the classroom.

Over the last 12 months, I have been researching questioning.

In my new book, I want to go one step further for teachers to explain some of the most popular strategies, why and how they work, and what teachers can do to embed them into their practice. In doing so, our teaching will become highly effective and, as a by-product, teachers will have more meaningful conversations with people in their working life.

It is my belief that when a teacher has accumulated a wide range of questioning strategies and they know how learning happens, they can then pose a wide range of questions that hook, hold to account, support or hinder, challenge or motivate students at any one moment.

Guide To Questioning FINAL COVER (McGill, 2023) PNG

Questions for teachers

  1. How often do you reflect on the effectiveness of your questioning?
  2. Do I have a balanced mix of questioning methods?
  3. How do you prevent a negative reaction to your questions?
  4. In what ways can you ensure your classroom questions are clear and well-timed?
  5. How could you measure the impact of your questions on student engagement?

This ability to select a suitable questioning strategy and pose questions in such a way as to elicit insightful student responses is nothing short of the work of a genius!

Grab a copy of my new book, Guide To Questioning.

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