Best Practices in Teaching: Probing

In this post, we continue looking at best practices for effective teaching. We will examine the concept of probing and how works in the classroom.

Probing are statements made by the teacher to encourage a student to further develop an answer. There are three common ways to do this and they include

  • eliciting
  • soliciting
  • redirecting.


Eliciting are statements a teacher makes to push a student to clarify an answer. If a student is close to the correct answer or if they are sharing an opinion but it did not come out clearly a teacher can use this approach. Usually, a follow-up question to what the student is trying to say can bring about a response that the entire class can understand. Below is an example

Teacher: Dan, what do we use a t-test for?

Dan: To see if there is a difference

Teacher: What kind of difference? (Eliciting)

Dan: Mmm, a difference between two groups.

In the example above, the student’s answer was partially correct but with a little help from the teacher through the use of questions, the student was able to strengthen their response.


Soliciting is similar to eliciting but it focuses on getting additional information from a student but not for clarification. Instead, the desire is to extend a response that is adequately correct already. Below is an example

Teacher: Dan, what do we use a t-test for?

Dan: To see if there is a difference between two samples

Teacher: What do you mean by difference? (Soliciting)

Dan: A statistical difference based on the alpha level chosen.

In this example, Dan’s answer was correct and the teacher encourages further elaboration for his benefit as well as for the class.


Redirecting is guiding an incorrect answer into a correct one. This takes a great deal of tact and interpersonal skills but is a valuable tool in effective teaching. Below is an example

Teacher: Dan, what do we use a t-test for?

Dan: To see if two groups are the same

Teacher: Same or different? (redirecting)

Dan: Oh! I think we want to see if they are different.

In this example, the teacher guides Dan to the correct answer through providing a small hint. Dan knows he is wrong without experiencing embarrassment about it.


Probing is an important skill in teaching. Eliciting, soliciting, and redirecting are all useful for guiding students to have success. The is by asking appropriate questions that encourage understanding in students. This skill in particular highlights components of indirect instruction, which is one of many styles of teaching.

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