Research Cycle

 The Question Mark

 Vol 2|No 4|March|2006
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Teaching Questioning Skills

By Jamie McKenzie
© 2005 Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

About the author.

This article first appeared as Chapter 8 of Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn available at

Grand Prairie ISD Teacher Sherry Bahle and
Librarian Elaine Tricoli leading students
through a unit asking if Jim Bowie
was a hero (click for article).

How does a teacher develop the questioning powers of young ones?

What are the classroom moves, tactics, strategies and tricks first mentioned in Chapter 5 on quality teaching?

As with many complex tasks, the best way to learn effective questioning is by doing it under the tutelage of a master. Training will not suffice. Sustained, deep growth in skill requires a learning process more like an apprenticeship.

It is possible to provide whole class instruction in various strategies, but there is always the danger that such lessons will not stick if the learning takes place apart from authentic inquiry. Skills acquired in isolation rarely take root or become well integrated components of a thinker's repertoire.

The teacher must address two strands that operate in tandem.

The first strand is just in time instruction in specific questioning strategies, with the teacher equipping students with just what they need just as they discover they need it or just before they realize they need it. Usually this instruction occurs in the context of conducting an investigation or problem-solving activity.

The second strand is the coaching of investigative activities while they proceed. When it comes to encouraging student questioning, the teacher must move aside but not away. The teacher does much less imparting of information as activities focus on exploration and discovery.

Students do the digging and the tough thinking while the teacher acts more as a consultant than an expert, supporting, guiding and helping to structure the investigation or thought process to increase productivity.

The effective teacher acquires and practices a repertoire of strategies that place primary responsibility for inquiry with the students.

Click here to download a PDF version of the remaining nine pages of this article. The following sections are addressed in detail:

A. Setting Up the Task

B. Creating a Culture and an Ethic

C. Checking on Progress

D. Intervening to Improve Results


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