18 Types of Questions Teachers Can Ask In Lessons To Enhance Their Questioning

18 Types of Questions Teachers Can Ask In Lessons Jonathan Sandling

Table of Contents

18 Types of Questions Teachers Can Ask In Lessons

  1. Closed
  2. Open 
  3. Convergent
  4. Divergent
  5. Display
  6. Referential 
  7. Leading 
  8. Probing  
  9. Focal 
  10. Loaded 
  11. Multiple Choice
  12. Binary 
  13. Fermi 
  14. Hypothetical
  15. Application
  16. Thunk  
  17. Ethical
  18. Affective

VIDEO: 18 Types of Questions Teachers Can Ask in Lessons [Enhance Your Questioning Repertoire]

1. Closed Questions

A closed question is a question which can be answered with a specific response, such as, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Closed questions are often used by teachers to check understanding by asking students to recall specific, factual information.

Examples:

  • Are you over 18 years of age?
  • What year did England win the World Cup?
  • Do you like Marmite? 

Find out more about closed questions by reading the following article:

Open and Closed Questions for Teachers: 36 Examples, Explanations, Pros and Cons

2. Open Questions

An open question is opposite to a closed question in that it cannot be answered with a simple static response, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead, there are multiple potential responses that could be provided by students. Open questions can be used to check understanding, but they are more often used to promote thinking. Student responses are usually more detailed and varied which supports greater discussion and debate.

Examples:

  • Why do you enjoy your art lessons so much?
  • What is the main purpose of government?
  • Why are superhero movies so popular?

Find out more about closed questions by reading the following article:

Open and Closed Questions for Teachers: 36 Examples, Explanations, Pros and Cons

3. Convergent Questions

JP Guilford first coined the terms convergent and divergent questions in the 1950s. Convergent questions require students to bring together ideas and knowledge from two or more fields and synthesise them to generate a logical conclusion. These questions are often used for problem solving activities and for topics which are multi-disciplinary in nature. 

Examples:

  • What one word would best describe this topic?
  • What is the common theme here?
  • What happened as a result of those actions?

Find out more about convergent questions by reading the following article:

Convergent and Divergent Questions for Teachers: Examples, Explanations, Pros & Cons

4. Divergent Questions

Divergent questions have no specific answer and can be used by teachers to encourage students to think more broadly about a specific topic. Students will consider different scenarios, alternative ideas and examples as they explore the question. Divergent questions generate divergent thinking which will require students to evaluate, analyse and synthesis information.

Examples:

  • What are ten ways you could use a hammer?
  • What might be the long-term impact of this event?
  • Why did the author end the story in tragedy? 

Find out more about divergent questions by reading the following article:

Convergent and Divergent Questions for Teachers: Examples, Explanations, Pros & Cons

5. Display Questions

Display questions are a type of rhetorical question where the teacher already knows the answer. A teacher will therefore use a display question to check a student’s understanding of a specific topic.

Examples:

  • What year was the first moon landing?
  • What are the five stages of grief?
  • How many players are in a cricket team?  

Find out more about display questions by reading the following article:

Display and Referential Questions for Teachers: 30 Examples, Explanations, Pros & Cons

6. Referential Questions

Referential questions are opposite to display questions in that they are asked because the person asking the question does not know the answer. A teacher would ask a student a question that they have no way of knowing the answer to. These questions are typically used to explore a student’s personal experience or unique perspective.

Examples:

  • What did you do at the weekend?
  • What was going through your mind when you completed that task?
  • How did you feel when you finished last in the race?

Find out more about referential questions by reading the following article:

Display and Referential Questions for Teachers: 30 Examples, Explanations, Pros & Cons

7. Leading Questions

A leading question is one which encourages and prompts the student to answer in a particular way; based on the way it is framed. This type of question is used when there is a desired and favourable response that the student should reach, but the student is not able to get there independently. They are usually framed in a way which supports and guides the student towards a favourable response.

Examples:

  • Can you identify any problems with this theory?
  • Can you think of any other ways to achieve this?
  • Experts consider customer experience to be the most important factor when buying a product – what do you think about that?

Find out more about Leading Questions by reading this article:

How to Ask Leading Questions in Lessons [10 Examples for Teachers]

8. Probing Questions

Probing questions are asked to seek more information on a particular topic. They are usually used as follow-up questions to encourage students to enhance, clarify or justify their thoughts.

Examples:

  • What made you come to that conclusion?
  • What impact will that have?
  • What might be missing from your previous answer?

Find out more about Probing Questions by reading this article:

How to Ask Probing Questions in Lessons [30 Examples for Teachers]

9. Focal Questions

A focal question requires students to choose and justify a specific position on a given topic. This type of question is asked in a way that forces the student to choose a position, usually whether they agree or disagree, and to provide logical reasoning to explain why they have chosen that position. 

Examples:

  • Would you think everyone should move to plant-based diet? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Do you believe in the theory of evolution? If so, why? If not, why not? 
  • Do you think socialism is the best philosophy for governments? If so, why? If not, why not?

10. Loaded Questions

Loaded questions use assumptions and suggestion to impose views and opinions on the person answering the question. Often loaded questions will be used unconsciously and the teacher will not be aware they are doing it. A loaded question can be framed positively or negatively and both will influence the student’s response. However, a teacher could consciously use a loaded question to deliberately trick students into agreeing with an assumption before then exposing the assumption as incorrect or worthy of challenge. This approach can be used to encourage students to question assumptions and other people’s views and not to blindly agree with everything they are told.

Examples:

  • Given that the internet is extremely bad for children, what do you think could be done to improve it?
  • Does anyone actually agree with this terrible idea?
  • This is an excellent experiment which proves this theory, does anyone disagree?   

11. Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice questions are used to give students options for answering the question. They will typically be lower order questions with one correct answer amongst a set of incorrect answers. However, variations can be used, for example, where students are required to identify more than one correct response from a list or to identify the odd one out. There is also the ‘all of the above’ approach which is quite commonly used. Providing options for students makes this type of question highly accessible for students and makes it easy for every student to respond.

Examples:

  • What is the capital of France? a) London; b) Paris; c) Berlin; d) Madrid (one correct answer)
  • Which of the following statements is true? A ligament… a) joins bone to bone; b) joins bone to muscle; c) helps stabilise joints; d) is an organ (more than one correct answer)
  • Which of the following is not a type of pasta? a) Penne; b) Tagliatelle; c) Orzo; d) Schillaci (odd one out)

Find out more about Multiple-Choice Questions by reading this article:

How to Use Multiple-Choice Questions in Lessons [30 Examples for Teachers]

12. Binary Questions

A binary question has two potential opposing answers. Typically, this will be a question where the answer could either be, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ or a statement where the answer could be, ‘agree’ or ‘disagree.’ Binary questions force students to choose one of the two opposing positions. These questions can be used for questions which have a right or wrong answer, but they are more effective when there is no correct answer and either response can be considered valid. Regardless of the response a student provides, they should be able to explain and justify their choice.

Examples:

  • Is climate change a real phenomenon?
  • Will there ever be true equality in the world?
  • Can you be highly successful and also be nice?

13. Fermi Questions

Fermi questions require students to provide an estimated response based on a limited set of information. They are named after physicist, Enrico Fermi, who was renowned for his ability to make good approximate calculations using little or not data. Fermi question encourage students to think both creatively and logically about how they might be able to answer the question.

Examples:

  • What was the total mass of all the cars that were scrapped in the UK last year?
  • How many balloons would be needed to fill an Olympic swimming pool?
  • How many hairs are on your head?

Find out more about Fermi questions by reading the following article:

How To Ask Fermi Questions In Lessons [20 Examples for Teachers]

14. Hypothetical Questions

A hypothetical question asks students to think, ‘what if?’ They are questions which require students to consider how they would feel or act in a potential, or imaginary, future scenario. Teachers can use hypothetical questions to promote creative thinking, problem solving, evaluation and other higher order thinking skills.

Examples:

  • What would the world be like if Shakespeare had never existed?
  • If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
  • If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Find out more about Hypothetical Questions by reading the following article:

How To Ask Hypothetical Questions In Lessons [50 Examples for Teachers]

15. Application Questions

Application questions require students to think about how they could apply their knowledge to real world examples. When learning a new topic in the classroom, students can sometimes find it challenging to understand the real-world relevance of what they are learning. Application questions therefore provide an opportunity for students to think about how their current learning is relevant to their everyday life and their future ambitions.

Examples:

  • Why would it be important to know this in the workplace?
  • How could this theory be applied in the real world?
  • Can you give me any examples of a time when you have seen people doing this?

Find out more about application questions by reading the following article:

How To Ask Application Questions In Lessons [10 Examples for Teachers]

16. Thunk Questions

Thunk questions are abstract questions which encourage students to think creatively to generate a response. There will never be a single correct answer to a thunk question, they are always open to interpretation and debate. Thunk questions could be related to the topic being taught or they could simply be used as an unrelated, nonsense question where the main intention is to develop abstract and creative modes of thinking.

Examples:

  • Is combing your hair art?
  • What colour is Wednesday?
  • Is it better to be rich and mean, or poor and kind?

Find out more about Thunk questions by reading the following article:

How To Ask Thunk Questions In Lessons [20 Examples for Teachers]

17. Ethical Questions

Ethical questions are values-based questions which contain morale choices and dilemmas. They will have multiple alternative solutions but all of which will be problematic for the student to justify. It is the thought processes, the rationale of choices and the debate that is generated from the variety of responses that are the key learning gains for this type of question.  

Examples:

  • How should we decide who receives organ transplants?
  • Should animals be kept in zoos?
  • You are stuck in the snow with your mum and dad, but you only have two blankets to stay warm. Who should get the blankets?

Find out more about ethical questions by reading the following article:

How To Ask Ethical Questions In Lessons [10 Examples for Teachers]

18. Affective Questions

Affective questions encourage students to express their attitudes, values and feelings towards a specific topic. This type of question can be used to engage students in the topic and enable them to relate to the content on a more personal level.

Examples:

  • How do you feel about that?
  • Is that important to you?
  • Does this change your attitude towards this in any way?

Find out more about affective questions by reading the following article:

How To Ask Affective Questions In Lessons [10 Examples for Teachers]

READ THIS NEXT...

My Top 5 Questioning Techniques for Teachers: Generate More Discussion and Debate

If you are interested in finding out what my favourite questioning techniques are you should check our the article above.

My Top 5 Questioning Techniques for Teachers

SUMMARY VIDEO: 18 Types of Questions Teachers Can Ask in Lessons

You may never ask all these different types of questions but I would encourage every teacher to think more deeply about the types of questions they are asking and the way they are asking them. Questioning in lessons, from both teachers and students, is critical for effective learning to take place and it is essential that teachers fully appreciate the importance of questioning in their lessons.