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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds CHRIS: Teachers ask lots of questions in the classroom, but many of these are simple recall questions. While these sometimes might be needed, there is much more value in using questions that get children to think and share their ideas. Teachers that do this are more able to challenge and intervene while ensuring they engage their children in the learning.

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 seconds JACK: I’ve learned a lot in terms of, sometimes, you’ve got to be patient and let the kids actually do the work, or give them a task where you sort of take a backseat and you’re there for the support rather than taking the hand and saying, this is this, this is that and guiding them through it. So during that, I am then circulating around the lesson, asking questions, checking understanding, and then keeping a few students on task, and providing a push in the right direction rather than a drag in the right direction, if that makes sense.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds MIKE: Start with a very, very open ended task. Because a closed task, like the questions that I was setting, some of the questions I was setting, a closed task won’t really give you a broad overview of collectively the group. An open ended task will help you to see straight away whether they all understand loads of this stuff, or whether they all understand none of this stuff, or mix and match.

Questioning to tune your teaching

In this step we look at questioning to enable you to tune your teaching to your students.

In the video Chris and some of our teachers discuss the value in using divergent questions (open questions) and questioning approaches that encourage students to think and allow teachers to gather richer evidence in order to be better placed to tune their teaching for the students they are working with.

Torrance and Pryor (2001) characterise divergent questioning as aiming to discover what the learner knows, understands or can do, rather than if they know something. It involves flexible planning or complex planning which incorporates alternatives, and open questioning and tasks.

This view of assessment could be said to attend more closely to contemporary theories of learning and accept the complexity of formative assessment.

Contrasting with open questioning is the idea of closed (or convergent) questioning. Divergent assessment focuses on miscues (misconceptions), which provide insight into students’ current understanding. Whereas convergent assessment focuses on contrasting errors with the correct response.

Adapted from: Torrance and Pryor (2001).


In the discussion below, summarise your current position as to whether open or closed questioning best provides you with evidence you can use to inform your teaching.

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This video is from the free online course:

Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment

National STEM Learning Centre