Oral Questioning

Teachers ask around 400 oral questions a day.


Key questions can be thought up in advance as part of the planning process. They are to there to receive main points within the lesson plan.

The Purpose of Questions

Orders/ Levels

Most questions are 'lower-order' or lower-level' questions for factual recall. They usually require only a short, 'closed' response. A question might start with "What?"

'Higher-order' or 'higher-level questions demand more developed responses from the students. They are more difficult to ask but go further in the learning achieved.These questions ask students to describe, compare, contrast or explain.

Higher level questions work at the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky) where a student is taken through a reasoning process. One student is asked several leading questions.

Higher Level Types

Questioning techniques


A pause is deliberate so that the class knows time is being given to think through a problem. The whole class is engaged if no one is named before the pause. The time allowed is around three seconds. There is argument now against insisting on hands up in school, even though this is potentially undemocratic. It also needs management so the first answer need not gain a positive response even if correct.


A difficult question may need reframing.

Confidence gaining

This is a matter of teacher sensitivity. It may need the clever person to keep the lesson running, but he or she should not be relied upon all the time. Others need encouragement to speak. The easiest questions can go to the weaker students and the more difficult to the more able.


This is where a series of questions hint towards the correct answer. Incorrect answers should be postively received and lead to prompting with a route to the correct answer. They can be directed at one or several students. Wrong answers should be turned to an advantage.


This means a further question or two leads a student to improve on an answer that is nearly but not quite correct.


A good answer is received and so the next question moves the interaction on towards a new area.



Adrian Worsfold