Category Archives: Geography

Episode 2: Using Questioning as a Learning Tool

Today we’re joined by Helen. A valued colleague of mine whose classroom “nous” is reflected in the respect demonstrated by her peers and students alike. While Helen’s learning area is predominantly English, she has a keen interest in the knowledge around questioning and how teachers can use this knowledge in the classroom. So that’s going to be our focus in this episode.

Pedagogy Podcast Episode 2 – Using Questioning as a Learning Tool



What does the research say about how teachers are currently using questioning in the classroom?

  • One third of all teaching time is connected to questioning
  • 60% of questions are lower cognitive question (yes/no questions); 20% procedural e.g. “Do you know how to do this?” 20% higher cognitive e.g. “To what extent might…”; “If circumstances were different, would your answer change and why…?”
  • Lower cognitive questions have their place but if over half of our time is used with these types of questions, we need to consider whether this is our purpose, intention or more a habit?
  • Teacher needs to be conscious of all questioning and aim to make all questions intentional
  • Build patterns within questioning and acknowledge the use of both styles
  • Students with less ability are asked fewer higher order questions and given less wait/think time – is this productive or out intention?
  • Teachers need to consider students’ range of learning needs when planning the use of questioning

How should we be doing ‘it’ and ‘when’?

  • Seek to generate a culture in which students ‘buy in’ to the questioning
  • Know the students in your class and plan your lesson so that every student has access to a question, whether it’s of a higher or lower cognitive demand.
  • Equip the students with the appropriate knowledge in order for them to access an answer to the questions you ask
  • Planning has to be around the question: ‘What experiences can we have before we get to the higher order questions?
  • Questioning verbally can mean that it is “one to one” model between student and teacher, which limits access and engagement for all students
  • Be conscious of the ‘empty time’ in which only one or two students may be engaged in the questioning activity as this may lead to disruptive behaviour or distractions
  • Planning should help manage these ‘empty’ situations
  • Create learning opportunities around the features that make up good questions including providing adequate thinking time and explicitly teaching listening skills
  • Recognise the moments to capitalise on student discussion (reciprocity)
  • With a thorough knowledge base and planning teachers can seek to engineer the lesson so that deeper learning opportunities happen deliberately. However, teachers need to be also prepared to read the “unscripted” opportunity (comes with experience and confidence)
  • At least ten seconds (higher cognitive questions) should be given for ‘think time’
  • Think time gives students the opportunity to formulate and censor a ‘covert response’, rather than delivering an ‘overt response’. At times, these responses then have to be revised through other questions like, ‘What do you mean by…?’


What are your top 3 tips to effective classroom questions?

  1. Plan the questions and predict how they may be used in the lesson. Extrapolate on how this might ‘look’ in the lesson: What pedagogical tools will I use? e.g. give the students an answer at the start of the lesson and get them to generate the question by the end (promote the top down function)
  2. Plan to provide access (for all) to the question (e.g. groups, one to one, post-it notes, technology (Zaption or Verso) or provocation)
  3. Shift the focus from the ‘sage on the stage’, to “student to student” to open up opportunities for all.


Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (2013) Viewed 14 June 2016, <>

Marzano, RJ & Pickering, DJ (2001). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. (1st Edn). VA: McREL.

Marzano, R.J. and Simms, J.A.(2014). Questioning Sequences in the Classroom. Bloomington: Marzano Research Laboratory.

McComas, W.F. & Abraham, L (2004). Asking Better Questions. Rossier School of Education: USC Centre for Excellence in Teaching.

Stahl, Robert J. (1994). Using “Think-Time” Behaviours to Promote Students’ Information Processing, Learning, And On-Task Participation. An Instructional Model. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 1990.

Top-Down Processing: Examples & Definition (2003) Viewed 15 June 2016, <>

Wilen, William W. (1991). Questioning Skills for Teachers. (Third edition). Washington DC: National Education Association.

Episode 1 – Pear Deck for Active Engagement

Last year I came across, via twitter, an online presentation medium that lets the teacher present content live while viewing student responses from the phone and having anonymous student responses via the classroom projector. It’s called Pear Deck and it aims to make the live classroom more engaging and fun while not impeding on the already busy teacher timetable.


Episode 1 – Pear Deck for Active Engagement



pear deck

The Positives

The set-up

The students love the instant feedback and fun, engaging mode of delivery.

Pear Deck has ‘Friction less Google Integration’ that suits the Google classroom but also, as I have experienced, works pretty seamlessly within our school network. The students simply sign in with a gmail account and enter the short code and wait for teacher instruction. Once the class is ready to go the tool bar at the bottom of the page allows for a range of ‘on the fly’ additions to ensure that the next ‘aha’ moment is right around the corner. The mode of presentation allows students to draw, vote, answer multiple choice questions and respond with short and long text answers, all the while monitored by the teacher and shared on the projector screen. In addition, you can block silly answers or lock the current screen so no more answer can be submitted. I often find myself giving students a set time to respond to questions then locking the screen after this time.


Once the slides are presented there is a pretty cool little button that allows the students to access their responses via a google spread sheet once the Pear Deck is over. My students have found that this ‘takeaway’ option allows them to quickly paste the Pear Deck slides from google docs into their current unit of work in OneNote enhancing what they were already doing.


Not only is this awesome for differentiation and instant feedback for students, but as a teacher you get weekly updates from the Pear Deck team informing you of the level of engagement from your sessions throughout the week. This kind of visual satisfaction often makes up (slightly) for the hours I spend marking papers after the sun goes down.


The Negatives

When you are using the mobile phone interface drawing and dragging slides tend to crash the browser. I have not had any issues with the other types of slide but this is a bit annoying. Also I have had some issues with embedding YouTube clips. For some reason or another they just don’t want to go in there. At $100 a year for a teacher it’s pretty affordable but I cant help but think there may be a better way to get more for your money.


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