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TIPS for Teachers-
Asking Good Questions


Good questioning skills are an important part of project-based learning and promote student inquiry and conjecture with open-ended questions.

Teachers of project-based learning have to encourage student question-asking behavior and peer questioning to improve student engagement and to probe for misunderstandings in their inquiry process.

Questions that ask students to elaborate, justify, and extend their ideas helps with metacognitive reasoning.

Questions allow us to make sense of the world. They are the most powerful tools we have for making decisions and solving problems, for inventing, changing and improving our lives as well as the lives of others.
Questioning is central to learning and growing (McKenzie, 1999).

Jacobson et al. (1993) discuss the critical role of questioning in effective teaching. In inquiry, skillful questioning allows the teacher to foster high-level discussions, either with the whole class, in small groups, or with individual students.


Questioning Strategies That Provoking High-Level Thinking
  • Require students to manipulate prior information by asking questions such as:
    • "Why do you suppose...?"
    • "What can you conclude from the evidence?"

  • Ask students to state an idea or definition in their own words.

  • Ask questions that require the solution to a problem.

  • Involve students in observing and describing an event or object by asking questions such as:
    • "What do you notice here?"
    • "Tell me about this"
    • "What do you see?"

  • Ask students to compare two or more objects, statements, illustrations, or demonstrations, and identify similarities or differences between them. While identifying similarities, students will begin to establish patterns that can lead to understanding of a concept or generalization (Jacobson et al.,1993) .

Different types of questions accomplish different tasks and help us to build up our answers in different ways.

If you ask many tantalizing and divergent questions in your classroom, your students are likely to model after your behavior.

Notice that these kinds of questions lead students to develop a plan based on a clarification of their goals and what they know about available resources.

We must show our students the features of each type of question so they know which combination to employ with the essential question at hand.

We don't want them reaching into their toolkit blindly, grasping the first question which comes to mind. (McKenzie, 1996).


Asking Probing Questions

Students need opportunities to process information by justifying or explaining their responses--dealing with the why,how, and the based-upon what aspects of a concept.

Probing promotes reflective and critical thinking. Because it requires teachers to think quickly in the moment, it can also be one of the most difficult questioning techniques (Jacobson et al.,1993).


Divergent Questions

Pursuing students divergent questions and comments is one of the central elements of inquiry teaching. It not only engages students in classroom discussions, it allows them to think independently, creatively, and more critically.

It teaches them to take ownership of their own learning while also feeling a shared responsibility for the learning of the entire class.

A teacher can ask divergent questions to elicit many different answers.

  • Imagine...
  • Suppose...
  • Predict...
  • If..., then...
  • How might...
  • Can you create...
  • What are some of the possible consequences...
  • What if...

Divergent questions allow a number of students to respond to the same question, encouraging student participation.

Redirecting questions will also help to increase the number of students participating in a discussion, but teachers need to make a strong effort to call on all students equally (Jacobson et al.,1993).


Additional Resource Information


Becoming a Coach |Asking Good Questions | Using Journals in Project-Based Lessons
Assessing Project-Based Learning| Making & Mnaging Long Range Projects |
Using Interactive Tools


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TIPS for Teachers PBL project developed by
Luis Tinoca, Seung-Hyun Son and Laurie Williams
Last updated 19/11/2001
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