Questions in sessions

There are many reasons for asking questions in teaching sessions. It is important that teachers know why they ask questions (and how they ask them), because questions have a big influence on the motivation and learning of your students. For instance, your questions will have a bigger effect if you follow up on the answers given by your students, or if you use specific contexts in your teaching to adjust the purpose of your questions.

Find out what you want to achieve before asking questions

Most teachers ask questions during their teaching, but the purpose of these questions may vary a great deal. Teachers need to know why they are asking questions, because questions have a big influence on student learning processes.

For instance, do you want your questions to target things that your students already know about a specific topic? Do you want to create a mutual sense of understanding between you and your students? Or do you want to stimulate the ability of your students to reflect on or explore their own learning process? If you are aware of your purpose and adapt your questions accordingly, you can make sure that in-class communication is not blocked and that the participation of your students is not limited.

What kind of answers do you want?

Teachers need to know how to ask questions because the way you ask questions influences the answers you receive from students. There are four different categories of questions: factual questions, speculative questions, process questions and procedural questions.

Factual questions are closed-ended questions to which you want specific answers. Speculative questions are questions which invite students to respond openly. You aren’t looking for specific answers but will allow opinions, hypotheses and ideas. Process questions challenge your students to reflect on and talk about their own learning processes or thoughts. Procedural questions make it possible for your students to comment on your organisation of the teaching, so they can be used for feedback to you as a teacher.

Category

Purpose

Example

Factual questions  

Questions with a specific answer

Example: When did this paradigm come into being?    
Speculative questionsQuestions that invite a response in the form of ideas, opinions or hypotheses    Example: Why do we see this tendency?    
Process questions Questions which ask students to articulate their own thoughts or learning process    Example: How did you reach this result?    
Procedural questionsQuestions concerning the management and organisation of the teaching    Example: What did you gain from the group work?   


Follow-up and timing may change the function of your questions

The way in which you follow up on your students’ questions is vital. Following up on their questions gives you the chance to find out more about what they mean, as well as identifying important elements in the content of your teaching. You can also use different contexts during the teaching to formulate your questions. At the start of your teaching, questions can be asked to find out what your students already know about a specific topic. You can ask the same questions at the end of a session to find out what your students have learned.

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