Questioning: Challenge & Engagement

Active engagement and questioning

Questioning is a fundamental element of pedagogy, one you could read endlessly around, but the reality is using questioning to challenge and engage all learners is demanding and potentially problematic to get right.

Recently I’ve been working with a team of teachers, shaping our CPD model in preparation for the new academic year. Engaging in dialogue around teaching and learning with colleagues is always a pleasure and extremely informative, and one aspect continually crops up; deep, challenging, and engaging questioning. Firstly, I think it’s crucial to outline what we are trying to achieve when we think about the purpose of questioning, for me, it includes the following:

  • Allowing students to develop a fuller understanding of a concept because they have tried to explain it
  • To easily recall existing knowledge
  • To be able to link the ideas in the lesson with existing knowledge
  • To tackle problems at a deep level and be able to extend their thinking
  • To engage easily with a task because they are clear about what is expected
  • To develop independence in the way they learn and think

Making the assumption that we are all familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy; a cognitive approach to classify forms and levels of learning, research has shown that as teachers we tend to ask questions in the “knowledge” category 80% to 90% of the time. These questions are not bad, but using them all the time has the potential to be. So, to try and utilise a higher order level of questioning that requires much more ‘brain power’ and encourages more extensive and elaborate answers, we need to develop innovative approaches in our day-to-day practice.  In the table are the six question categories as defined by Bloom. Nevertheless, having the theory is one thing, but being able to effectively teach critical thinking skills using Bloom’s taxonomy to underpin effectively, active engagement for all learners is another.

So I ask the question; how do we plan for deep questioning that will challenge all learners? Recently we’ve developed some simple yet effective ‘quick wins’ on this front. Although planning for questioning is vital, so too is managing and challenging misconceptions as they arise in learning, which often requires us to deviate from the ‘plan’ and rightly so.

Active engagement

Question Keyring

We value cooperative approaches to learning and therefore seek imaginative ways to actively engage all students in their learning, and making blooms interactive has been one effective strategy allowing us to accomplish this. Essentially, we have focused on how the theory can be applied in an instant and when/where necessary, ultimately never losing sight of the sole intention of challenging all students to move their learning forward. Through interpretation and classroom-based action research, the ‘questioning key ring’ has been developed, offering a simple aide-memoire for the teacher and students alike.

Think Dice

Expanding upon this further, the strategy is now linked explicitly to think dice to help promote students’ active engagement in their learning. This adds a fun dimension whilst enabling students to lead effective questioning of their peers. This can be and has been applied to all subjects from Key Stage 3 through to Key Stage 5.  I’m not advocating that this is and should be the only pedagogical strategy in your ‘toolbox’ but it has developed into one highly effective way to engage students in their learning, whilst stimulating deep thinking from effective questioning. Since I posted these pictures on twitter, I’ve had a lot of requests for the resource and questions regarding the thinking dice. Below is the word document that supports this and is the template for the printed key ring, simply click on the link below it to download. The dice were purchased from

Think Dice Template

To download this editable file as a word document click here

Good luck with your questioning!

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Gary King and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

You can read more from Gary by clicking here.

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About UKEdChat Editorial 3173 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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