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Asking Good Questions

Understanding questioning strategies and practicing with a peer can improve teachers’ questioning skills.

Since the days of Socrates, asking questions to assess student understanding has been a core component of teaching and learning. Today, verbal questioning is so prevalent in education that it’s difficult to picture a classroom in which a teacher isn’t asking questions. In fact, researchers note that verbal questioning is second only to lecturing as the most common instructional practice (Black, 2001). Teachers ask about 300–400 questions per day and as many as 120 questions per hour.

However, teachers often use verbal questioning merely as an organizational tool—to check students’ class work and homework, review and summarize lessons, and evaluate students’ learning (Black, 2001; Goodman Berntson, 2000; Wilen, 1985). But verbal questioning has the potential to do much more. It can motivate students to pay attention and learn, develop students’ thinking skills, stimulate students to inquire and investigate on their own, synthesize information and experiences, create a context for exploring ideas, and enhance students’ cumulative knowledge base (Black, 2001; Goodman Berntson, 2000; Hyman, 1974).

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