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Questions to support intentional dialogue

The initial research into Inside the Black Box found that teachers who encouraged intentional dialogue often used rich questions. A ‘rich question’ is one that cannot be answered immediately, but requires the learner to work on a series of smaller questions or activities before they return to attempt to answer it.

Here are some examples of rich questions:

  • What happens to sugar when you add it to water?
  • Which is the odd-one-out in acorn, coconut, strawberry and potato?
  • What is similar and what is different about respiration and photosynthesis?
  • Is it always true that metals are dense materials?
  • What is friction like on the moon?
  • There are 7 characteristics of living organisms, but are some of these more important than others?
  • What is similar and different about a compound and a mixture?
  • If there are 24 people in the room and everyone in the room shakes hands, how many handshakes is that?
  • If you have only 5p and 7p stamps, what postage can you put on an envelope up to £2? Which amounts of postage, up to £2, can you not do with just 5p and 7p stamps?

Classroom Task

Write a rich question to use in an upcoming lesson. Make your question challenging for your class, as it is these that are likely to promote discussion and provide you with a better understanding of what students think.

Rich questions require student discussion, either in groups or as a class, and you will need to decide what you will do as the teacher during the activity. As well as choosing the question, you will need to plan how you are going to gather evidence of student thinking.

How are you going to set the activity up? When, where and how long will the discussion take?

Share your question below and then let us know what you discovered from your students.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introducing Assessment for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre