Much of the following work of teachers and trainers at the University of Southampton was based upon a treaty of the subject by Kathleen Cotton as part of her work for the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory Other ideas come from Amy C. Brualdi, ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation Washington DC. 

Research indicates that questioning is second only to lecturing in popularity as a teaching method and that classroom teachers spend anywhere from thirty-five to fifty percent of their instructional time conducting questioning sessions. 

Teachers today ask between 300-400 questions each day (Leven and Long, 1981) 

"[In multiple studies] researchers have found that in a single day teachers ask hundreds of questions of their students. In one study of third-grade reading groups, on average teachers asked a question every 43 seconds." On the other hand, students ask few questions. (Gambrell, Journal of Educational Research, volume 75, pp. 144-148) 

"Student-led discussions resulted in more extensive and higher level discussions than teacher-led discussions... student-led discussions were typified by more student talk, higher level thinking, wider participation from group members, greater cohesion within the group, and richer inquiry." (Almasi, Reading Research Quarterly, volume 30, 1995, pp. 314-51.) 

It can be considered that there are three aims to questioning:

[Discussion of the various purposes and then cross check with list]

From these are drawn a number of purposes:

To develop interest and motivate students to become actively involved in lessons 

To evaluate students' preparation and check on homework or seatwork completion 

To develop critical thinking skills and inquiring attitudes 

To review and summarize previous lessons 

To nurture insights by exposing new relationships 

To assess achievement of instructional goals and objectives 

To stimulate students to pursue knowledge on their own 

[another set]

1.the act of asking questions helps teachers keep students actively involved in lessons; 

2.while answering questions, students have the opportunity to openly express their ideas and thoughts; 

3.questioning students enables other students to hear different explanations of the material by their peers; 

4.asking questions helps teachers to pace their lessons and moderate student behavior; and 

5.questioning students helps teachers to evaluate student learning and revise their lessons as necessary. 

[consider the following model of the process Woollard (2002)]

[consider the cognitive nature of questions based upon Bloom's Taxonomy]

Cognitive: the most-used of the domains, refers to knowledge structures (although sheer “knowing the facts” is its bottom level). It can be viewed as a sequence of progressive contextualisation of the material. (Based on Bloom,1956) 

knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation

The following observations are drawn by Cathleen Cotton and her analysis of the literature. 

[How can they be interpreted in the UK setting of ICT lessons?]

Teachers spend most of their time asking low-level cognitive questions (Wilen, 1991). These questions concentrate on factual information that can be memorized (ex. What year did the Civil War begin? or Who wrote Great Expectations?). It is widely believed that this type of question can limit students by not helping them to acquire a deep, elaborate understanding of the subject matter.

High-level-cognitive questions can be defined as questions that requires students to use higher order thinking or reasoning skills. By using these skills, students do not remember only factual knowledge. Instead, they use their knowledge to problem solve, to analyze, and to evaluate. It is popularly believed that this type of question reveals the most about whether or not a student has truly grasped a concept. This is because a student needs to have a deep understanding of the topic in order to answer this type of question. Teachers do not use high-level-cognitive questions with the same amount of frequency as they do with low-level-cognitive questions. Ellis (1993) claims that many teachers do rely on low-level cognitive questions in order to avoid a slow-paced lesson, keep the attention of the students, and maintain control of the classroom.

[How are we to judge the quality of trainee teacher questioning?]

For older students, increases in the use of higher cognitive questions (to 50 percent or more) are positively related to increases in: 

(1) On-task behavior 

(2) Length of student responses 

(3) The number of relevant contributions volunteered by students 

(4) The number of student-to-student interactions 

(5) Student use of complete sentences 

(6) Speculative thinking on the part of students 

(7) Relevant questions posed by students 

[Wait times.]

Redirection, probing and reinforcement.

Redirection and probing (often researched together) are positively related to achievement when they are explicitly focused, e.g., on the clarity, accuracy, plausibility, etc. of student responses. 

Redirection and probing are unrelated to achievement when they are vague or critical, e.g., "That's not right; try again"; "Where did you get an idea like that? I'm sure Suzanne has thought it through more carefully and can help us." 

Acknowledging correct responses as such is positively related to achievement. 

Praise is positively related to achievement when it is used sparingly, is directly related to the student's response, and is sincere and credible. 

What is a bad question?

When children are hesitant to admit that they do not understand a concept, teachers often try to encourage them to ask questions by assuring them that their questions will neither be stupid or bad. Teachers frequently say that all questions have some merit and can contribute to the collective understanding of the class. However, the same theory does not apply to teachers. The content of the questions and the manner in which teachers ask them determines whether or not they are effective. Some mistakes that teachers make during the question and answer process include the following: asking vague questions (ex. What did you think of the story that we just read?), asking trick questions, and asking questions that may be too abstract for children of their age (ex. asking a kindergarten class the following question: How can it be 1:00 P.M. in Connecticut but 6:00 P.M. in the United Kingdom at the same moment?). 

When questions such as those mentioned are asked, students will usually not know how to respond and may answer the questions incorrectly. Thus, their feelings of failure may cause them to be more hesitant to participate in class (Chuska, 1995), evoke some negative attitudes towards learning, and hinder the creation of a supportive classroom environment. 

[Creating our own guidelines for trainees]

Based on the foregoing findings from the research on classroom questioning, the following recommendations are offered: 

In a research review on questioning techniques, Wilen and Clegg (1986) suggest teachers employ the following research supported practices to foster higher student achievement: 

Well planned and well thought-out interaction during read-aloud time helps students make meaning of text. "Before and during reading, the teacher elicits predictions, poses questions, and utilizes illustrations... There is a sense of mutual discovery...." that helps students learn to make such reading discoveries on their own. Interactive reading aloud seem effortless, but to be successful they require careful story selection and careful question planning.

A note on Teacher Training 

Research tells us that pre-service teachers are given inadequate training in developing questioning strategies and, indeed, that some receive no training at all. What happens when teachers participate in training designed to help them improve their questioning skills? Research indicates that: 


Sanders (1966) stated, "Good questions recognize the wide possibilities of thought and are built around varying forms of thinking. Good questions are directed toward learning and evaluative thinking rather than determining what has been learned in a narrow sense" (p. ix). With this in mind, teachers must be sure that they have a clear purpose for their questions rather than just determining what knowledge is known. This type of question planning results in designing questions that can expand student's knowledge and encourage them to think creatively.