PD Module 4: Asking questions that promote reasoning

Author: The University of Nottingham

Many good teachers will ask questions throughout their lessons, in order to keep the students involved. But not all questions are equally good to promote IBL. Moreover, it depends a lot on the way the question are asked whether all students will start thinking, or whether just a few will start yelling. This professional development module supports teachers to develop questioning strategies that are effective for IBL.

Potential for PD

The most frequent type of teacher-asked question type during the lessons might be “fill-in-the-gap” questions. Although such questions do promote interactivity, they tend to evoke little deep thinking, and only part of the classroom will participate. This is especially true if wrong answers get neglected and if the interaction ends after the first correct response.
The aim of this module is that teachers will become more aware of their own questioning habits, and that they will develop a wider repertoire of questioning strategies that could support IBL.

This CPD resource is designed to be used by small groups of teachers working independently of an ‘expert’, or by a teacher working on his or her own. It has been used in both pre-service education and with practicing teachers.


The basic structure of the module is that first, teachers reflect on their own questioning habits, their purposes, and the strengths and weaknesses as they see them. Second, they will see question types that could promote IBL, and strategies to promote an inquiring dialogue, such as withholding judgment, and establishing ground rules for discussion. Third they will watch and discuss an example lesson on video. These experiences are then transferred to the classroom, and finally, they report back on the outcomes.

Concrete examples being addressed in this module include:

  • Figure out a fair way of sharing petrol costs for a parent who pick up several neighbor kids on the route to school.
  • Estimate the number of dentists are there in your country.

Doing the module with teachers will take a first session of about two hours, a week in between for the teachers to try out in their own classroom, and another half hour or so in a second session. This module is the fourth in a series of seven, and the second session could also provide the start of the fifth module "Students working collaboratively”.

Processes of inquiry

The inquiry processes in this module are structured according to a modeling cycle. The major processed addressed in this module are:

  • Exploring situations
  • Interpreting and Evaluating
  • Communicating results


  • Download: PD Module Guide Pdf / Doc
  • Download: Teacher Handouts Pdf / Doc

Classroom video: "Sharing Petrol Costs" lesson

Supplementary materials

Install the software applets

These pages require a web browser with Javascript and Adobe Flash Player 9 or newer to use the video and software.
The software applets can be browsed as part of each module. If you want to install them separately on students' machines you can download the set (and more) as a Windows installer or as Mac applications. Alternatively, they are availavble in browser-based format for any system that supports Flash.


This module has been compiled for PRIMAS from professional development materials developed by the Shell Centre team at the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education, University of Nottingham. Many of these materials were originally written for the Bowland Maths project, funded by the Bowland Charitable Trust, or for the Improving Learning in Mathematics project which was funded by the Department for Education and Skills Standards Unit.

Last change: 6 juni 2013
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