Questions are a very important part of the learning process.Things to be aware of with questioning:

  • Closed questions have their place in workshops, but learning is enhanced when the majority of questions are of the open type
  • Giving children the opportunity to frame their own questions (and possibly also decide which category they might fall into) is a very useful way of allowing them to take ownership of their learning
  • Try to ‘expect the unexpected’ – if you get an answer you don’t expect, don’t shut it down with an immediate ‘no’, ask the pupil how they came up with that answer
  • Be aware that what you think a question means may not be how children hear it
  • Try to avoid the ‘read my mind’ type of question, where you are expecting a particular answer (maybe even a particular word) – there are almost always other valid answers
There are three types of question:

  • Closed questions – these are questions which have yes/no answers or only give the opportunity for very short (often factual) answers
  • Open questions – these are questions which invite a longer answer – they often start with ‘Why..’, ‘How…’, ‘Describe…’ or ‘Explain…’
  • Philosophical questions – these are questions which invite deeper thought and discussion (usually these need to be built up to)

Examples of each type of question:

women in conversation

Closed How many women are there in this picture? What is the name of the coffin mummies are usually found in?
Open What is the woman wearing blue feeling? Why do you think people wanted to preserve their bodies in ancient Egypt?
Philosophical Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Should remains of human bodies be displayed in museums?

Watch out! What looks like an open question may turn out to be a closed question (TV interviewers are often very good at this):
e.g. ‘How did you feel when the disaster happened? Were you shocked?’ – the questioner has restricted the answer that could be given