Ensuring Accountability and Attention from Students During Questioning

One of the things that I do lots of work on with the trainee teachers at my school is improving the efficiency of questioning sessions.  Questioning is one of our most frequently used tools, yet often is a strategy that fails to reach many – sometimes the majority – of students in a class, who take it as an opportunity to become passengers to the learning, passive and disengaged.

The session in this post is one that I designed to help the participants think about techniques to ensure that every student in the room is mentally accountable during questioning, also improving their ability to pay attention to the classroom discourse in such a way that they are able to learn from it.

The session has three main components:

1) Starter:

The starter encourages participants to reflect on how they feel about questioning, based on whether they agree with one of three fictional statements about its use within the classroom.  The statements move from complete confidence in the efficacy of questioning as a learning tool to a complete lack of confidence.  In my experience, due often to problems in ensuring that the majority of the class pays full attention to questioning sessions, most trainee teachers, especially first years, place themselves towards the latter.  I find that trainees can become disheartened and frustrated when, time and time again, their questioning sessions just do not work.

At this point, the purpose of the session can be discussed, which is in essence about learning techniques which act as a  lever to gain some control of the students’ mind, cognition and attention.


2) The techniques:

The main body of the session is formed through the participants learning four techniques:

  1. Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce questioning
  2. Active Note-taking
  3. Agree, Build, Challenge questioning
  4. Techniques to ensure that students ‘Take a Stand’

Information on the techniques themselves is included in the PowerPoint (attached below), and I used a marketplace strategy to teach the techniques.  Again, instructions on how to run a marketplace are in the slides, but essentially groups take responsibility for different techniques and then teach each other.

3) Microteaching:

Finally, I included a microteaching component, where pairs of students had to come up with an interesting discussion topic and then plan how to run it as a class discussion using as many of the techniques as possible.  Pairs then had to take turns to run their discussion with the rest of the class as students. I used a segment in which the participants have to practice using techniques to help avoid the CPD Paradox.

4) Plenary:

Finally, the participants reflected on what techniques they would take forward into their planning that for week.

The slides for the session are available for download here:

Accountability and Attention during Questioning

P.s. As I looked over these slides before posting, I noticed that a photograph of student work that I included might look a little odd, or at least might look odd without some context. The class were preparing for a controlled assessment comparing Mercutio in the Baz Lurhmann film with the same character in the play.  At the time we were analysing the scene where Mercutio is in drag, hopefully explaining the note about Mercutio looking ‘like a prostitute’.




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  1. Asking Probing Questions | The CPD PARADOX
  2. The CPD Paradox: Addressing educational disadvantage through improving professional development in schools | Teacher Development Trust

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