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Questioning to assess learning

Questioning to support assessment

I was asked this question on twitter recently:

A great question that made me think about how I have explained using questioning in lessons to trainees and NQTs in the past.

“The right questions inspire deep thought, challenge belief or understanding and enable progress. Never forget that a good question can be simple or complex – it all depends on the desired outcome.”

If the desired outcome is that you want to know how much a learner understands about a new topic, concept or skill (assessing their understanding), you just have to ask the right question(s).

Questions that can help you assess understanding:

“Explain to me what you think X means to you?”

“Using these words on the board can you describe Y ?”

“Please explain to your partner how to create X”

Those three are good starting points if you want to assess a student’s understanding of something.

“Do not get hung up on questions having to be long and complex to get long complex answers.”

Simple works well

Questions as simple as, “Can you identify which words mean X from the words on the board?” will help you assess whether a key concept has been understood.

If a learner can’t choose the correct words, then you know more work has to be done to solidify understanding.

This is where I advocate ‘no hands up’ questioning.

9 times out of 10, if you allow hands up for answers in class then the learners who do know the answer will put their hands up. (Check out Dylan Wiliam and his work on questioning).


No hands up – stop students from opting out!

In terms of challenging all learners and enabling everyone to progress, then you need to know the learners who don’t put their hands up have understood too – so stop letting learners put their hands up!

No hands up gives you the control – you choose who to question based on what you want them to know/understand.

I hope this helps teachers to develop questioning as both a stretch and challenge and assessment tool in your classroom.

Happy teaching!

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