How To Ask Probing Questions In Lessons

How To Ask Probing Questions in Lessons for Teachers

What Are Probing Questions?

PROBING QUESTIONS promote thoughtful, deep and exploratory responses to questions and can be used by teachers to promote stretch and challenge in their lessons. 

They are used as follow-up questions to encourage students to expand their thinking beyond their initial response through enhancing, clarifying or justifying their thoughts.

VIDEO: Probing Questions Explained

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18 Types Of Questions

Teachers Can Ask In Lessons

Fermi questions are just one of many question types that teachers can ask in lessons.

Read this article to explore other types of questions you could use in your lessons. 

30 Examples of Probing Questions for Teachers

  • What made you come to that conclusion?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • What impact will that have?
  • What might be missing from your previous answer?
  • Can you give me a different answer?
  • What dos this remind you of?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • What might be the reason for that?
  • How did you arrive at that answer?
  • Can you elaborate on your answer?
  • Can you justify your answer?
  • Why is that so important?
  • Who might benefit from that decision?
  • How do you think this will make people feel?
  • Can you think of a better way to solve this problem?
  • Can you give me three reasons why you believe this to be true?
  • Can you explain why you disagree with this?
  • Does this remind you of anything?
  • Did you expect that outcome?
  • What would you do different in the future?
  • What are the main lessons you have learned from this experience?
  • When might this not work?
  • How can this be applied in the workplace? 
  • How do these two thing relate to each other?
  • Why do you think this is the best strategy?
  • Why do you think he used that technique?
  • Why do you think the author ended the book in that way?
  • Why did you enjoy reading that poem?
  • What evidence do you have to support your argument?
  • Can you give me an example to support your point?

When and How To Ask Probing Questions In The Classroom

Probing questions can be used at any stage in a lesson. 

They can be used whenever the teacher wishes to stretch and challenge students to explore a topic in more detail.

Probing questions are most commonly verbal, used in real time, during question and answer sessions, in response to student feedback. 

However, probing questions can also be anticipated prior to the lesson and provided as written questions on handouts or presentations to prompt deeper thinking from students.

There are some effective questioning techniques which can be adopted in lessons to support the teacher’s use of probing questions, such as:

These questioning techniques, as others like them, provide a framework for questioning which both the teacher and students can use to enhance their question and answer sessions. 

Whenever there is an opportunity to ask probing questions the teacher should aim to do so. 

This may be during a starter activity to explore the existing knowledge of the students to inform the lesson ahead, as part of a plenary activity to check the level of understanding of the students, or at any other point in the lesson where probing students for more detail and depth in thinking will support learning and progress. 

It is also the teacher’s responsibility to encourage students to use probing questions with each other and with themselves. This can greatly enhance group work through peer to peer challenge and develop students as effective independent thinkers.

What Are The Benefits Of Asking Probing Questions In Lessons?

  • Students are challenged to think more deeply about the topic they are learning.
  • Students will develop higher order thinking skills.
  • Students will develop the ability to ask probing questions to others.
  • Students will develop enhance independent thinking skills.
  • Greater levels of discussion and debate will be achieved during class and group activities. 
  • Enables the teacher to check learning in a deeper and more comprehensive way. 
  • Creates opportunities for the the teacher to stretch and challenge students.
  • Teaches students how to deal with challenging questions and conversations. 
  • Develops student ability to use evidence and examples to support their arguments. 

Author: Jonathan Sandling