Asking Probing Questions

When I ran this session for my participants, I wanted to look at the idea of using questions to  drive learning through probing the students into thinking deeply about an issue and challenging them to advance their thinking.

I will admit that, both in inspiration and design, this session has been entirely pilfered from Tom Sherrington’s fantastic blog ‘Headguruteacher’, in particular from his Great Lessons series. I used a lot of what Tom wrote in his post as part of the session, as well as his list of probing questions as a resource for the participants.  As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I hope that he won’t mind this.

The session:

There really is not very much to this session, apart from reading some excerpts from the above blog:

‘When you walk into a lesson where the teacher is talking and you immediately think, ‘Yes, this is a great lesson’, what is happening? It is this: the teacher is asking probing questions. There is an intensity to it: solid classroom management is securing complete attention from everyone….eyes front, listening intently… and the teacher is probing.’

For more on ‘securing complete attention from everyone’, I have a previous post on some techniques to help ensure this.

I wanted the participants to spend the session actually practicing using probing questions so that these become a routine behaviour for them when they ‘go live’ in front of class.

We used the following list of probing questions and I asked the trainees to get into groups and come up with a five minute mini-lesson on a topic of their choice to deliver to the rest of the participants.


After planning their mini-lessons, groups took it in turns to run these with the rest of the group acting as students.  Teachers had to work their way through the list of probing questions as they taught their lesson, attempting to use as many as possible in the course of the discussion. Following each lesson, student fed back and made suggestions for improvements.  We also gave teachers the opportunity to re-run sections of their lesson if they needed to.

I then asked them to take the list into their classrooms and practice using them with a real class.  In the week immediately after the session, I went on a learning walk to check on whether the techniques were really being used (which they were).

Please find the complete session to download below.


Probing Questions CPD


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