Questions are a really useful method of formative assessment to ensure your learners are acquiring the necessary knowledge and understanding before moving on to a new topic. 

They can also be used as summative assessment at the end of a unit or programme, for example, in a test or an exam. I thought I'd put a few ideas in this, and next month's article to help anyone who might be new to asking questions when they are with their learners.

This article will briefly cover:

  • Open and closed questions
  • Using verbal questions
  • Involving learners during a group session
  • Tips when questioning

Open and closed questions

Whenever possible, try to use open questions which require an answer to demonstrate understanding, rather than closed questions which only give a yes/no answer. The latter doesn't show you if your learner has the required knowledge as they could make a correct guess. Open questions usually begin with who, what, when, where, why and how. For example, 'What would you do differently next time?' instead of 'Would you do it differently next time?'

Try to just use one question in a sentence, as more than one may confuse your learners, or they might just focus on the last question asked. Try not to ask Does anyone have any questions? as often only those who are keen or confident will ask, and this doesn't tell you what your learners have learnt. Try not to use questions such as 'Does that make sense?' or 'Do you understand?', as your learners will often say 'yes' as they feel that's what you expect to hear, or they don't want to embarrass themselves. However, if you find yourself doing this, follow it up by asking why it makes sense, or how they have understood it.

Using verbal questions

If you are asking questions verbally to a group of learners, ensure you include all the learners. Don't just let the keen learners answer first as this gives the ones who don't know the answers the chance to stay quiet. Tell your learners you are going to use a particular method before you ask questions. For example, pose a question, pause for a second or two and then pick a learner to answer the question. This way, all learners are thinking about the answer as soon as you have posed the question, and are ready to speak if their name is asked. This is sometimes referred to as pose, pause, pick (PPP). If your nominated learner doesn't know the answer, ask them to guess. That way they still have to think and can't opt out. If they still don't know, say they made a good attempt and then move on to another learner.

Involving learners during a group session

To ensure you include everyone throughout your session, you could have a list of their names handy and tick each one off after you have asked them a question. This is fine if you don't have a large group. If you do, make sure you ask different learners each time you are in contact with them. Alternatively, you could have everyone's names on folded pieces of paper, and ask a different learner each time to choose one.

Tips when questioning:

  • allow enough time for your questions and your learner's responses
  • ask open questions, i.e. those beginning with who, what, when, where, why and how
  • avoid trick or complex questions
  • be aware of your posture, gestures and body language
  • be conscious of your dialect, accent, pitch and tone of voice
  • don't ask more than one question in the same sentence
  • generate activity and energy if using closed questions to a group by asking learners to stand up, then ask them to sit down for a yes answer (or vice versa)
  • know that some learners might be shy, therefore direct your questions to a table of learners (if you have groups) to help encourage their input
  • use active listening skills to show you are concentrating on hearing what they have to say
  • try not to use a lot of jargon
  • use eye contact when talking to an individual learner, or use eye contact as you ask a question to a group by alternating looking at each learner for a second as you speak
  • use learners' names when possible
  • watch your learners' reactions and body language.

Do let me know if you have any more tips, or what does/does not work for you.

Next time, I'll cover:

  • Examples of questions
  • Preparing questions
  • Written questions
  • Multiple choice questions

Ann Gravells is an author, creator of teacher training resources and an education consultant - she can be contacted via her website:

This article is copyright Ann Gravells - her next article will be: Questioning techniques – part 2

The above text is an amended extract from Principles and Practices of Assessment (2016) by Ann Gravells.

You may also be interested in these articles:

End to end learner journeys – from initial to end-point assessments - #FutureOfAssessment Episode 4

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page