Effective Questioning

(Up to 60 minutes)

This module explores a variety of effective questioning strategies and methodologies.

In this module you will:

  • reflect on questioning for assessment and questioning for understanding

  • identify effective questioning strategies

  • plan how to develop effective questioning in your classes


(15-20 minutes)

Please read the notes below and look at the brief video clip.

This Learning Module clarifies the value of effective questioning and suggests steps to engage pupils and develop their thinking and understanding.

Resources referred to in this module are from

CCEA Assessment for Learning - A Practical Guide

What is effective questioning?

Effective questioning involves using  questions in the classroom to open conversations, inspire deeper intellectual thought, and promote pupil-to-pupil interaction. Effective questions focus on eliciting the process of 'how' and 'why,' in a student's response, as opposed to answers which just detail 'what.’

However, effective questioning does not just relate to the use of questions. Instead, the teacher can decide to employ a range of effective questioning strategies or activities, which will scaffold, facilitate and secure the same level of student engagement or interaction with higher order thinking.

Purposes of Effective Questioning

Effective questioning serves two main purposes-to assist with assessment and to improve understanding.

Questioning for assessment is teacher-led. It helps you obtain evidence about where pupils are in their learning. This information about pupil knowledge, understanding and skills can then inform planning and the selection of teaching strategies to move pupils from where they are to where they need to go.

Questioning for understanding can be both teacher-led and pupil-led. When teacher-led, it can help pupils make connections that are not immediately apparent and can unobtrusively guide pupils to the facts, solutions, and conclusions they need to discover. Pupil-led questioning is a key process in learning and allows them to develop independence, work through problems, and to reflect on and evaluate their own understanding.

How to make questioning more focused

  • Stop using the rhetorical questions often used to manage behaviour, such as ‘Is everyone sitting down yet?’ as they train pupils to ignore many questions.

  • Give pupils time to think.

  • Ask fewer questions.

  • Avoid using questions to bridge transitions in lessons.

  • If you want to know what the pupils’ knowledge is, ask a closed question and to probe their understanding, ask an open question.

  • Avoid ‘shotgun’ questioning.

  • Use ‘no hands up’ Be selective about when to use it and ensure that it builds on your current practice rather than replacing it.


(15 minutes)

Reflect on your own experience of using questions in class.

In your subject, think of a question that you recently asked your class. Reframe it using the 4 steps outlined in the video.


(20 minutes)

Think about your own classes and take the opportunity to plan changes you may considering making.

  • How can I extend participation in whole class and group questioning to all pupils?

  • How can I develop questioning strategies that deepen pupils learning?

  • What class am I going to start with?

  • What planning will I have to do?

Further Reading and Support Materials