How To Combine Open And Closed Questions In Lessons

Combine Open and Closed Questions

What Are Open and Closed Questions?

If you are not familiar with the concept of open and closed questions you are encouraged to read this article first (and return to this article afterwards).


Or you can watch the two videos provided below.

What Are Closed Questions?

What Are Open Questions?

How to Combine Open and Closed Questions in Lessons

A great way to structure your questioning approach in lessons is to consider how you can combine open and closed questions.

The choice of question the teacher decides to ask will largely depend on two factors:

  1. The level of prior understanding of the student(s)
  2. The complexity of the topic being taught.

Whilst superficially this is a simple strategy, it actually requires a lot of practice on the part of the teacher to refine their skills in asking questions in a way that they are able to ask the right question, at the right time, to the right student, in a natural and fluid way.

The example provided below demonstrates how you can combine open and closed questions to enable the teacher to ask questions which are more targeted to the individual student’s existing knowledge, as well as the complexity of the subject being taught.

Example: Combining Open and Closed Questions in Lessons

The teacher begins the discussion by posing a closed question to gain an understanding of student views and assumptions.

This could be followed by an open question requiring students to think about why they have expressed such a view and how they can justify their assumptions.

The teacher could then consider asking another open question, such as, ‘Can you justify why you gave your previous answer?’

This will allow students to think and respond as they see fit.

Alternatively, the teacher could ask a closed question instead, such as, ‘Did you give your previous answer because you have experienced this yourself?’

This would allow the student to respond with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

The teacher would continue to combine open and closed questions in response to student feedback to maximise participation and progress the discussion in a meaningful way.

The sequence and combination of open and closed questions is entirely up to the teacher and with practice should come naturally as the question and answer discussion develops.



If you would like to consider how you can combine low and high order questions in lessons, I recommend that you read this article.

Author: Jonathan Sandling