../Images/btn_assessment_over.gif Classroom Interactions Attitude Surveys


A. Questioning Strategies
B. Observations and Note Taking
C. Conferences and Discussions


A. Questioning Strategies

Socrates is generally credited with pioneering the technique of teaching through questions.  Teachers can incorporate questions to help assess students' knowledge, reasoning, and attitudes. In an excellent article called Classroom Questioning, Kathleen Cotton lists the following reasons for asking questions in the classroom (Cotton, 2001, p. 1).

  • 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

Questions, both formal and informal, are a cornerstone of teaching and learning. Although it seems that teachers "naturally" ask questions in the classroom, there are several techniques that are worth reviewing:

  • Plan ahead -- as you outline each lesson, think about potential questions to ask.
  • Keep the questions simple, short, and easy to understand. 
  • Try to address higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy -- emphasize aspects of why and how.
  • Randomly call on ALL students -- those with raised hands and those without.
  • Allow wait time after asking a question; especially for higher level questions.
  • Be supportive in your feedback; never embarrass students.
  • Stay on track -- if you or a student goes off on a tangent, you'll lose the interest of the rest of the students.
  • Ask before telling -- encourage students to think through a situation, scenario, or problem before giving them the solution.  Better yet, help them derive the solution themselves!
  • Use probing techniques to encourage students to clarify their ideas and explain their reasoning.
  • Promote "accountable talk" by focusing on concepts related to curriculum standards and encouraging students to provide rationale for their opinions and reasoning.
  • Encourage students to participate and to elaborate and build on each other's ideas.
  • Challenge students to formulate hypotheses, based on accurate knowledge. 

Most questioning activities in the classroom are informal; in the general course of teaching, questions are used to summarize topics, assess understanding, expand topics, and motivate students.  However, formal questioning strategies are also possible. Donna Qualters outlined a few strategies in Using Classroom Assessment Data to Improve Student Learning, including:

  • Muddiest Part of the Lecture -- Pass out 3x5 cards to the students and ask them to write down anything in a lesson that is unclear or confusing. Collect the cards at the end of the lecture, and provide feedback (and elaboration) during the next class meeting.
  • Cold Calling -- Write all of the students' names on 3x5 cards.  Then, shuffle the cards. As you go through the lesson, select a card from the stack for each question.
  • Concept Tests -- Students learn from asking each other questions. Ask students to write their answers to a complex question on a piece of paper. Then, ask the students to confer with their neighbor to defend their answers.



Try This

Try one of the strategies outlined by Qualters (Muddiest Part of the Lecture, Cold Calling, or Concept Tests).  

  • How did it work in your classroom?  
  • What benefits did you note?



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This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School
and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF.
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