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NCETM - Working collaboratively to enhance mathematics teaching

Module for mathematics specialists in post 16 education and training

Session 5: Questioning

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Task: Before looking at different types of questions, you may find it useful to pause for a few moments and ask yourself 'Why do we ask questions?' You could discuss this with a colleague before jotting down your thoughts.

 

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Why do we ask questions?

Please record your thoughts

Here are some possible answers taken from the Improving Learning in Mathematics resource.

Compare these with your answers and add any further thoughts.

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Further thoughts on questioning

Please record your thoughts

Where can you go wrong when asking questions?

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Task: Think about all the possible mistakes that teachers might make when they are asking questions, based on your own experience as a teacher and as a learner. If you can, discuss this with a colleague or visit the discussion forum to read what other teachers have said.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

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What can go wrong?

Please record your thoughts

Effective and ineffective questioning techniques

The research that underpins the approaches in Improving Learning in Mathematics identified a number of questioning techniques, some of which are more effective than others. These can be found at:

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Effective and ineffective questioning.
Source: QIA mat_imp_03.pdf page 54.

 

 

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Task: Preferably working with a colleague, choose two of the effective questioning techniques that you think do not happen very often in classrooms and think about why they don't. Similarly, choose two of the ineffective techniques that you think happen a lot and think about why this is the case.

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Effective and ineffective questioning techniques

Please record your thoughts

Open and closed questions

There is evidence that many of the questions asked in mathematics classrooms are of the 'closed' type. Although there is a place for closed questions, they can have the effect of shutting down the learning opportunities and encouraging learners to believe that there is only ever one correct answer or method. 'Open' questions, however, give scope to explore different ways of thinking and are very useful in assessing where learners are at. There are some examples of open questions at:

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Open Mathematical Questions.
Source: Teaching and learning QIA PD5.2 Open mathematical questions, page 55.

 

 

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Task: Think about your own questioning techniques with your learners.
Do you use open questions?

 

 

Open questions may sometimes receive surprising answers, perhaps even answers that you may not be sure are correct, so you do need to be prepared to acknowledge this to learners. Experience shows that many learners enjoy the challenge of open questions and enjoy testing out their teachers. However using open questions can increase the confidence of all learners and particularly those who find the subject difficult as an open question gives the opportunity for answers at different levels.

Trying some open questions with learners

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Task: Choose a topic that you are about to teach and think of some open questions. To get you started, the sheet below gives some examples of open questions

 

 

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Open questions
Source: QIA PDF - mat_imp_03.pdf, page 54

Try your questions out with your learners and afterwards reflect on their impact on the learning.

If you are able to work with a colleague, discuss the questions before you use them. If your colleague can observe you using them, he or she will be able to focus on the responses of the learners, which will help in reflecting afterwards.

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Trying open questions

Please record your thoughts

If you would like to do more…

Improving Learning in Mathematics contains a number of video clips of teachers using whole class questioning. These can be found at:

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Thinking about questioning


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Developing questioning.

Source: Teaching and learning QIA PD5 Developing questioning, pages 50-56.


There is a professional development session on questioning in Improving Learning in Mathematics for you to use with a group of colleagues in your organisation: