Formative Assessment: Three Essential Features Of Teacher Questioning

Teacher questioning is a part of formative assessment

In their second large study (2003), Black & Wiliam conducted professional development at six schools in Britain. They trained teachers on how to implement formative assessment strategies such as questioning, feedback, self-assessment, and peer-assessment. The result was that the use of formative assessment strategies can largely affect students’ learning and achievement. 

Taking a birds’ eye on the literature of classroom discourse, one might be surprised by the number of research done questioning. An important part of classroom discourse is the questioning techniques that teachers use to continually assess students’ understanding.

Very simply, questioning refers to the range of questions that are asked by teachers during lessons and which largely promote formative discourse and affect students’ learning. Many teachers would say they employ questioning every time, but whether they do it effectively or not, that remains questioned.

In this post, I will share with you three critical characteristics of teachers’ questioning. Questions that teachers ask are of great importance. So, much time and attention should be given to them.

 The questions should be carefully planned.

Teachers spend much time in the class teaching, asking, observing and analyzing, assessing….etc. Based on the gathered data from these processes, teachers spend a lot of time to frame and plan effective questions that help learners boost their knowledge and promote their understanding and overall learning.

The questions that teachers plan should be open and sophisticated and not close. These questions will help teachers demonstrate students’ ability to critically think, analyze and synthesize ( read about Bloom’s taxonomy).

The questions should help students harness the workings of their minds.

Questions should aim at promoting students’ learning, prompt students to critically examine pre-existing content and experience to create new understandings and new learnings beyond the input served in the class. This is one of the most critical features of questions.

Basically, the teachers use the questions to take learners to their zone of proximal understanding and learning. The first phase usually starts with sharing content and testing comprehension while the other phases should help learners think, evaluate and build on their knowledge.

Teachers should allow extended wait-time.

Moss & Brookhart (2009) stated that a sound characteristic of teacher questioning is that it allows for wait time. The wait time is a period after which teachers wait when asking questions. Many teachers don’t wait appropriate time. They receive answers as soon as they a students’ hand.

Research has shown that when learners receive more than 7 seconds of wait-time, they give long and correct answers, they think in-depth, more learners volunteer to give responses, their motivation increases, and more learners add to others’ answers.


I hope you really enjoyed reading this post. What else can you say about teacher questioning? Please, share your ideas in the comments to help others know more.


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References :

  1. Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2003). Assessment for Learning: Putting it into Practice. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.
  2. Moss, C. M., & Susan, M. B. (2009). Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom: a Guide for Instructional Leaders. Alexandria: the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.



2 thoughts on “Formative Assessment: Three Essential Features Of Teacher Questioning”

  1. Totally agree. Good open questions help develop students’ thinking and learning skills. In fact, understanding the Socratic method of questioning can be very insightful for teachers. Thank you for the post.

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