4th November, 2016

How to Ask Great Questions when Teaching

By Rachael S

Questioning is at the heart of teaching and tutoring. Questions are the number one way in which teachers and tutors communicate with their students. Asking good questions means raising the quality of communication between you and your students. 

One way to make sure you always ask good questions is to have a set of questioning frameworks on hand. You can use these to frame the questions you ask, helping to maintain a high standard, even when time is against you.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is an example we are all familiar with. But here are three other frameworks you might not have come across:

1) Concrete to Abstract

This method involves a gradual transition from one type of thinking to another, as opposed to a specific delineation of skills. That shift is from concrete thinking to abstract thinking.

Here is an example:


1) How many ducks are in the pond?

2) What colour are the ducks?

3) How are the ducks behaving?

4) What are the relationships between the ducks?

5) What might be influencing the behaviour and relationships of the ducks?

6) Why might the ducks have come to be as they are?

7) Is all human life mirrored in the vagaries of ducks?

8) If ducks could speak, would we understand them?


2) Show Me, Tell Me, Convince Me

Show me: Use the phrase ‘show me’ as the command part of your question. You might ask a student to show you what they have done, to show you how they have learnt something, or to show you what something means. The use of the word ‘show’ indicates this activity involves a basic level of thinking.

Tell me: Using the phrase ‘tell me’ as the command part of your question means you are making greater demands on your students. You might ask pupils to tell you what they think about something, to tell you about the structure of something, or to tell you about the origins of something they have been studying. The use of the word ‘tell’ indicates this activity requires a deeper level of thinking than is the case with the word ‘show’.

Convince me: Using the phrase ‘convince me’ as the command part of your question makes greater demands on your students. You might ask pupils to convince you that they are right, to convince you that something is the case, or to convince you that a certain course of action should be taken. The use of the word ‘convince’ indicates this activity requires complex thinking – beyond the level of showing and telling.

When using this method, you can ask a number of questions based on each category; you don’t have to limit yourself to one per section. You can develop the method by using different command words (explain, describe, persuade and so on).

3) General to Specific

This is where your questions begin with a general concern about some given topic or idea before gradually progressing to a specific element of that. Here is an example:

What are your thoughts on climate change?

What do we know about climate change?

What effects might climate change have on the world?

How might human behaviour connect to these possible effects?

How might it be possible to mitigate these effects?

What might a plan to alter the behaviour of people in the UK look like?

What are the strengths and limitations of such a plan?

To what extent do you agree that climate change can be reversed by attempting to alter the behaviour of individuals?

As the questions become more specific, so the challenge increases. Students have to give increasingly detailed responses, make more precise use of information and demonstrate a more developed understanding of the topic.

Each of these questioning frameworks can be adapted to suit your needs, or used off the shelf – as in the examples above. In either case, the benefit is the same. You can be confident in the quality of your questions as the framework takes care of this in advance.

Author Bio

Mike Gershon: To read more by Mike, visit one his websites at: www.mikegershon.com or www.gershongrowthmindsets.com

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