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Teachers ask a lot of questions in the course of a lesson. It is important that these questions are purposeful and targeted to the learning, and that ample time is given for students to think and respond. A culture of questioning should be encouraged and students should be comfortable to ask for clarification when they do not understand.

There are several techniques for gathering responses to questions:

  • Choosing students that put up their hands – this tends to favour the loudest most confident students.
  • Cold-calling students. Put the students’ names on popsticks and pull randomly (with replacement!) from a cup. All students know they have to have an answer prepared, even if it is ‘I do not know’.
  • Asking students to write their response on a mini-whiteboard and hold it up. Then you can see the responses of all the students at once.

Watch this video, which discusses the use of open- and closed-ended questions.

The teacher:

  • teaches students how to listen and respond politely to others’ contributions and models this behaviour in their own responses
  • uses targeted questions to focus on the learning objectives for the lesson
  • uses questioning to extend students’ thinking and to check for misconceptions and gaps in knowledge
  • allows adequate time for students to respond
  • varies how the students respond to questions
  • encourages respectful dialogue and collaboration
  • provides feedback to students immediately
  • plans and structures questions before the lesson
  • keeps the lesson focused on the learning intention
  • does not ask too many questions so as to dominate the conversation.


The students:

  • feel safe to ask and respond to questions
  • feel safe to ask a question to clarify understanding
  • can respectfully respond to other students’ questions
  • know when they have achieved the goal of the lesson and feel successful.

Examples of the strategy in action


Transforming tasks strategy: from closed to open

Tasks are presented as following a ‘before and after’ approach. It demonstrates how a closed question problem can be modified to an open-ended question. A reflection of why and how provides rationale and benefits for student learning.

Deep questioning to support research

In this science lesson, the teacher uses deep questioning and targeted feedback to develop students' understanding of the content. The students demonstrate their understanding by creating their own instructional diagrams.

Related articles

These articles explain what makes an effective question and how to tailor questions for different purposes.

  1. Open questions – providing opportunities for success
  2. Using Questioning to Stimulate Mathematical Thinking
  3. Top Drawer Teachers (AAMT): Effective questioning