Questioning Strategies

Asking questions in the classroom is often more of a science than an art. There are core definitions and strategies to questioning that can be used by teachers. Below are just a few thoughts on this approach

Purpose of Questions

First, one purpose behind questioning in the classroom is to assess the understanding of the students. In this way, the questioning serves as a type of formative assessment. Questioning also allows for the expression of thoughts and to maintain the attention of the students.

Types of Questions

There are two types of questions and they are convergent and divergent questions. Convergent questions only have one answer. An example of such a question is “what time is it?” There is no debate over the answer. The student is either right or wrong.

Divergent questions are questions that have many different reasonable answers. An example would be”who is the greatest athlete of all-time?” There are many different possibilities for such a question. To assess the answer it is appropriate to evaluate the criteria the student used to develop their response

Excellent teaching involves using a combination of convergent and divergent questioning. Convergent questions often involve lower level thinking such as recalling, summarizing, and understanding. Divergent questions involve higher level thinking such as applying, synthesizing, and evaluating.

Sequence of Questions

The order of the questions matters when teaching. Questions can go from simple to complex or vice versa. Questions can start broad and then become narrow or the opposite. The decision on the sequencing can be made in relation to the type of reasoning you want the students to do. If you want the students to reason inductively, you would start with convergent questions and move to divergent questions. For deductive reasoning, you would do the opposite. Below is an example of convergent to divergent questioning also known as narrow to broad questioning sequence.

Teacher: What do you see in the picture? (convergent question)
Student: I see a man with lung cancer smoking a cigarette
Teacher: What do you think about smoking after seeing this picture (divergent question)
Student: I think smoking is bad for you because it could cause health problems

Below is an example of divergent to convergent questioning also known as broad to narrow questioning sequence.

Teacher: What do you think about smoking? (divergent question)
Student: I think that it is an expensive habit
Teacher: How much did the average person spend on cigarettes in your country last year? (convergent question)
Student: $800.00

The first example was an example that employed inductive reasoning in which an example was given followed by a general statement. The second example employed deductive reasoning in which a general example led to a specific statement. Both employed questions but for slightly different purposes.

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