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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Multiple choice questions can be very helpful in this kind of situation because they make the teacher’s job of synthesising the responses of the students much simpler. If you’re getting students to hold up mini whiteboards to a camera, you’ve given yourselves a very, very difficult data processing task. And you probably wouldn’t be able to read what’s on the whiteboards. So I think planning for evidence elicitation is the key step here. So whenever you’re planning a session, check after 10, maybe 15, minutes, check the students are with you.

Questioning to elicit student understanding

In this video Dylan mentions how useful questions can be for both teachers and students. When used well, questions can deepen students’ understanding, and are powerful tools for teachers to use to help them elicit evidence of students’ thinking.

In the remote learning setting, you have two opportunities to ask questions: through structured ‘asynchronous’ tasks, and in live sessions. Dylan suggests the use of well a chosen multiple choice question. Such questions will be more than asking about the knowledge the student is building, instead they are more likely to help the students build their understanding, and to support the teachers in ascertaining where students are having difficulties and what the students’ ideas are about topics.

Question approaches teacher can use include:

  1. Getting students to answer diagnostic questions linked to difficulties in the topic: BEST resources.
  2. Answering hinge-point questions linked to common misconceptions in the topic. Take a look at some examples and watch this short introduction to hinge-point questions.
  3. Answering rich questions linked to the topic, where multiple ideas need to be drawn on. For example, students have built up knowledge about the duration of days and years on Earth. The activity is to answer the rich question ‘How can Venus have a day longer than a year?’.
  4. Being provided with questions on a particular topic that increase in difficulty. Students are told to only complete enough until they feel they can do the skill. They then need to create similar questions of their own. Take a look at this example.
  5. Asking for multiple answers to a question rather than one. For example, ‘Can you think of three reasons why there are smaller numbers of predators in an ecosystem than there are primary consumers?’.


Consider the approaches above, or other approaches you have used previously. Think about how you might use tools within your school or college learning environment, the tools we looked at previously in the course, along with the role of any live sessions or video resources.

  1. Think about one questioning approach that you would use to elicit student understanding on a particular topic.
  2. Decide whether you would use this approach in either an asynchronous activity, or a live, synchronous session.
  3. Share your reasons in the comments below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

National STEM Learning Centre