Skip main navigation


Cambridge English | Teaching Your Subject in English | Video | Teachers discussing elicitation in subject-specific lessons
I think eliciting is good for learners and for teachers as well. For learners, it’s good because to begin with, there’s a lot of activating. They activate their knowledge and at the same time, the teacher can know exactly how much they know or don’t know. It’s also good because it sets the tone. There’s going to be a lot of interaction, there’s going to be a lot of productive thinking, there’s going to be a lot of constructive learning. It’s also good for communication purposes. So what I could do is draw three different triangles on the board, point to them and say OK, which triangle is this, hoping that they will say isosceles or right-angled or acute-angled.
Or I could point to the angles or different lines. So I just want to check from them. I’m not giving them the words. I want them to give me the words that they’ve already learned. If I want to check knowledge or elicit knowledge, I might ask which of the triangles would tessellate better on the floor. So you’re really trying to find out what they already know? It’s already been previously taught, but rather than giving them the words, as I would might do in reviewing, I want to get them from the learner. When I plan my lessons, what I like to do is to spend quite a lot of time thinking about the questions that I’m going to be asking.
And I have to do a lot of lateral thinking, because I not only have to think of the questions that I would like to ask, but also what the learners are likely to say so that I can think of further questions. I also like to use prompts. They may be visual, they may be linguistic. Sometimes it’s only a picture or a photograph or maybe even a graphic organiser. Something that will motivate and inspire learners to say something about the topic.
Now, let’s look at the last of this week’s techniques for preparing learners for learning: eliciting subject knowledge and ideas. Eliciting is a technique we can use to get learners thinking and saying what they know about a subject. It’s when we ask questions or give learners clues to get learners to say what they know about a subject rather than the teacher giving the explanation.
For example, Can anyone tell me the opposite of exothermic?
Claudia and Kay talk about eliciting. Watch the video and answer these questions:
1. Why is eliciting good for learners and teachers?
2. What techniques do Kay and Claudia use to elicit from their learners?
When you have finished, check your answers in the document in the downloads section.
Kay and Claudia said they asked questions to elicit knowledge and ideas from their learners. Do you use eliciting as a way of finding out what your learners know or think about a subject? What kind of questions do you ask? Write your ideas in the comments section and like comments from participants whose questions you think you could use in your lessons.
This article is from the free online

Teaching Your Subject in English

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education