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Session 98 - How important are questions in teaching and what is the best type of questioning?

How important are questions in teaching and what is the best type of questioning? Hosted by @MrLockyer, May 2012

Session Summary

Questions are probes into the mind - they should be spontaneous & authentic - emotionally charged & truly curious.

We started the discussion by finding out the value of questions in a 21st Century classroom. Everyone saw innate value in questions from, and to learners. Questions from students were particularly popular, with @super_sixfive saying “the best questions come from the students! that is why I love my job, I never quite know what I going to be asked”. Many repeated what @MrWaldram said was his favourite question and the one he asked about many times a day: ‘how do you know?’ While others questioned why children grow out of the ‘Why?’ phase, when it is actually so important to keep asking why. @Bectully Said ‘Most useful questions are ones teachers ask themselves. Need to challenge assumptions we make about students and their learning.’

We then looked at how teachers selected their students. Quite a few used random selectors, to cancel out any bias they may have, while others advocated having a ‘no hands up’ rule. @craigneilsmith felt that the key was to have ‘the right learning environment that allows questioning to develop without fear of looking silly or failure,’ While @MrG_ICT wanted to ‘avoid a few dominant children answering questions, and value all childrens contributions. @Porkpiebaby highlighted using a question matrix which is differentiated by the types of questions work well - or to cut up the matrix and choose for ability, while @Kezmerrelda recommended given the learners the answers and ‘get them to try to figure out what the question is! Thinking skills!’ @TeacherToolkit: pointed out their work on #PPPB Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce, which can be found here.

Questions are the only useful things in planning! Planning how you take learning forward using questioning is SO important

Questions aren’t of course all about spoken dialogue, and some tweeters examined how then used questions without saying them. @Porkpiebaby plays Pass the parcel plenary. Cards inside a parcel with questions on to reflect on attitudes/skills/knowledge used/learned. @DeputyMitchell advocated them being central to planning, stating, ‘questions are the only useful things in planning! Planning how you take learning forward using questioning is SO important!’

We explored unanswered questions and what we did when we aren’t sure of an answer. @SheliBB felt this was simple: ask them how they think they could answer the question, decide on best (reasonable) method and do it, while @SwayGrantham liked using LOs that were questions - children know that when they can offer a relevant answer they have achieved.

@Carlsberg40 felt that sometimes it’s better if you don’t know the answer, stops you ‘guiding’ them too much, allowing them to discover for themselves. the value of lesson observations came from @whatsinaname10, who was told ‘Why not let the pupils question each other?’ @jogyouon had a great idea, which was to put answers onto Fruit Machine and Name Selector then choosing a child to ask what the question was. @UFAorg said ‘it’s good to remember that it’s ok not to know the answer as a teacher but role model how 2 find an answer together,’ which I think reflected best practice.

We ended with our best and worst questions, which probably put a smile on quite a few faces! Highlights included:

  • @informed_edu: ‘Most embarrassing Q was in my PGCE, first time watching any class (sex-ed!), teacher asked me to answer “”What’s a wet dream?””
  • @SwayGrantham: ‘Miss, is the bible fiction or non-fiction?’
  • ‏ @Heatherleatt: ‘where did the £10 go miss?’ - When I was teaching VAT & invoicing. Not one of my strengths… I had no idea!
  • ‏ @craigneilsmith: “”Ben Nevis - Who’s he?””
  • @ethinking: from a y6 boy called James “”Mr Y - did you just fart?””
  • @lordlangley73: ‘Is Jupiter the biggest planet in the world?’
  • @ks2teacher: “”Mr Hall, why have you got sweat patches under your arms?””

Lots of talk of questions based on Zones of relevance, SOLO or Bloom’s taxonomy, stating that closed begins low, more open and deeper higher up. Many people recommended Thinking Dice and others termed open and closed questions as Fat and Thin questions, which makes the point of them very effectively, and also introduces an expectation to the pupils of the answer type expected. There were a few mentions of the ‘hinge question’ but no explanation - perhaps this will be forthcoming in a future #ukedchat?”


“”Once you ask pupils to raise hands - you create 2 classrooms in your classroom”” @dylanwiliam inspired change in me


You can tell whether a person is clever by their answers. You can tell whether a person is wise by their questions.

@TeacherDevTrust: Great teacher questions: “”what did you think of that lesson?”””


questions are probes into the mind, should be spontaneous & authentic: emotionally charged & truly curious


I am @mrlockyer, a dangerously young-looking Deputy Head who lives and works in Kent. I have a deep love of teaching, learning and technology, and feel I should blog/tweet/write more, but life tends to get in the way! I completed my MA in 2010, which looking at learning online versus offline learning, and am currently saving up to pay for a Doctorate, with which I hope to explore the impact of pupil feedback on teaching. I have four children under seven and have not had a full night’s sleep for seven years, co-incidentally. I blog at

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