Effective Classroom Questioning Techniques for Teachers


Effective Classroom Questioning Techniques for Teachers

group of school kids raising hands in classroomQuestions should play a central role in the learning process. Because of this, we as teachers need to plan ourquestions carefully. This doesn’t mean script writing; that would negate creative teaching. However, it does mean we need to carefully plan our questions by thinking through possible questions which would guide the students toward further investigation and a deeper understanding of the concepts being stressed.

  1. Distribute questions so that all, including non-volunteers, are involved.
  2. Balance factual and thought-provoking questions.
  3. Ask both simple and exacting questions, so that the poorer students may participate and the brighter students may be extended.
  4. Encourage lengthy responses and sustained answers. (Avoid yes-no questions, questions overlaid with afterthoughts, fragmentary questions, and those that tug or encourage guessing. NOTE: If you catch yourself asking a yes-no question, add “Explain.”)
  5. Avoid: “Does anyone know…?” and “Who can tell us…?”
  6. Allow time for thought. Wait until five or six want to speak
  7. Start the crossfire by asking, “What’s your opinion of that answer…?”
  8. Don’t drop too quickly a student who seems unable to answer. If a student is nonplussed, inquire “How can we help…out?”
  9. Use the overhead technique: 1) question, 2) pause, 3) name.
  10. Personalize questions (“Pretend you are … what would you do?”)
  11. Increase your wait-time to 5 seconds or longer if needed.
  12. Become aware of how long you wait for particular students to respond after your question has been stated. Consciously focus upon increasing your wait-time for “slow” or shy students.
  13. Include types of questions which call upon higher cognitive skills than merely rapid-fire memory questions.

Questions must be guided by definite aims. They should be asked: 

  • to test a student’s preparation (Find out if students did their homework.)
  • arouse interest (Bring them into the lesson by motivating them.)
  • to develop insights (Cause them to see new relationships.)
  • to develop ideals, attitudes and appreciations (Ask questions that cause students to get more than knowledge in the classroom.)
  • to strengthen learning (Review and summarize what is taught.)
  • to stimulate critical thinking (Develop a questioning attitude.)
  • to test achievement of objectives (Check to see if what has been taught “sank in.”)


Good questions are:

  • purposeful (asked to achieve a specific purpose)
  • clear (students understand what they mean)
  • brief (stated in as few words as possible)
  • natural (stated simply, in conversational English)
  • thought-provoking (they stimulate thought and response)
  • limited in scope (only one or two points in chain of reasoning called for)
  • adapted to the level of the class (tailored to the kinds of students in the class)


Question types that should be avoided:

  • yes-no (These draw one-word — Yes or No — responses: “Does the square root of 9 equal 3?”)
  • elliptical (These are vague: “What about the League of Nations?”)
  • guessing (These encourage speculation rather than thought: “How long do you think man has been on earth?”)
  • leading (These tend to give away answers: “How do vitamins help to build strong bodies and make up deficiencies?”)
  • vague (These don’t give students a clue as to what is called for: “Tell us about concave lenses.”)


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