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Questions in the geography classroom

“Questioning is an essential tool for teachers; questions can be used for many purposes, including to check pupils’ prior knowledge, assess understanding and break down problems.”

ITT core content framework and Early career framework, DfE, 2019

 

Questioning is at the heart of all good geography teaching. Teachers use questions to engage students with a topic, to clarify what they have taught and to assess learning. Above all, good questions make students think and help them to develop deep understanding.

Good questioning skills are one of the most important pedagogical techniques to master to be an effective teacher. It will take time to develop a high level of proficiency in questioning and you should be prepared to work hard at it through practice and self-analysis.

The DfE Frameworks for ITT and ECTs expect you to know how to use a range of different questions to extend and challenge students and to prompt them to elaborate when responding. It also expects new teachers to understand the importance of the use of questioning for scaffolding and to identify misconceptions.

There are different types of questions that geography teachers use. There are teacher-led questions, which they put to students often as part of whole-class teaching. These are used to check students’ knowledge and asses their understanding and also to encourage students to think hard about a geography topic.

A teacher will also ask students questions as ‘one-to-one’, particularly to check understanding and identify any misconceptions. Teachers can also engage students in asking their own questions, individually or collaboratively, to develop students’ questioning skills. To develop deeper thinking in students they can involve students in Socratic questioning.

Finally, geography teachers use enquiry questions, or ‘big’ questions; these are often a focus for a whole unit of work.

The areas of questioning in geography that are covered in this section are: