In 2017, Paramore, identified an imbalance in the types of questions teachers ask in lessons.
He found that there was an over reliance on closed questions and that teachers asked too many poor-quality questions.
The questions that teachers ask in lessons can be broadly categorised into three types:
This type of question is typically asked as a closed, factual question which requires students to recall knowledge and information they already know.
These are important questions to ask as they allow the teacher and student to check learning and progress, and inform future learning activities.
This type of question is typically asked as an open question which encourages students to think about new ideas and perspectives.
These are also important questions as they provide new opportunities for learning and thinking beyond what students already know.
This type of question is used to manage students and their behaviour and actions during the learning process.
Examples of this type of question may include, “Are you ready to start?”; “Do you have everything you need?”; “Who doesn’t have a partner yet?”; etc.
Percentage usage of each question type varies between studies but general reported patterns typically identify the following:
50% – Questions to manage the learning environment
40% – Questions to check existing knowledge
10% – Questions to promote new learning.
It is therefore clearly apparent that teachers need to ask questions that promote opportunities for new learning and new thinking.
Teachers need to reduce their excessive focus on ‘reproductive’ thinking (recalling prior knowledge) and enhance their focus on ‘productive’ thinking (new thinking and ideas).
By asking better questions which increase opportunities for students to engage in new thinking, teachers will enable their students to progress their knowledge and think more critically using more higher order thinking skills.