Questions should call for critical reasoning and stimulate dialogue among students, rather than promote exchanges between teachers and students.


  1. Do not just ask students to recall information. Ask students to use information to resolve dilemmas posed in hypothetical or real problems.
  2. Challenge students to formulate judgments about laws and/or public policies. Always probe for reasons.
  3. If the discussion involves a hypothetical situation or conflict, ask questions that prompt students to generate options about how to handle the situation. Then, ask students to analyze the options to decide the best course of action.
  4. Think about how to structure questions so that students listen to and respond to each other, not just you. The following suggestions can help encourage students’ active participation:
    • Pose a question and ask students to discuss answers with a partner.
    • Ask students to generate their own questions regarding materials recently presented in class.
    • Tell students to signal by showing thumbs up if they agree with a statement, thumbs down if they disagree, and thumbs to the side if they’re not sure.
    • Pause at least five seconds after asking a question to give students time to think.
    • Encourage students to expand on their responses if they provide short or fragmentary answers.
    • Call on more than one student per question.
    • Encourage students to react to each other’s responses.
    • Avoid imposing your own judgment on students’ responses to open questions. Open implies that a wide variety of responses may be acceptable.
  5. Think about ways to phrase questions and to give all students the opportunity to answer. Strategies might include:
    • Call on non-volunteers as well as volunteers.
    • Call on each person in a row of desks.
    • Call on students whose names you draw randomly.
  6. Use a variety of methods to involve all students in each class period and let students know that you plan to do this.