How To Teach Effective Questioning Skills for Inquiry-Based Learning

writing questions on sticky notes

Have you ever been stuck trying to encourage your students to ask deeper questions?

Thoughtful, meaningful questions are critical to the inquiry process. But not all questions students come up with are “essential”.

Learn how to teach your students to go from writing “Google-able” questions to developing deeper inquiry questions.

Start with the basics

Recap the Q-Matrix and how to generate deep questions. Remind students that the following questions are “Google-able”:

  • Questions that have a with a simple “yes” or “no” answer (e.g., is Canada a country?)
  • Questions that have a simple explanation (e.g., how many hours are in a day?)
  • Questions that you wouldn’t need to spend a lot of time researching (e.g., what are my classmates’ favourite snacks?)

Students need to remember that the point of inquiry learning is to ask deep, relevant questions. Then, present their findings in a way that informs and inspires their audience. A call to action makes for a powerful outcome as well. Simple questions do not benefit students. They don’t provide enough opportunity for depth or meaningful application.

Use a provocation

Incorporating a provocation at the start of the inquiry is a good way to introduce students to the topic. Using provocations helps to remind students what they already know about a topic. Triggers like books, paintings, quotes, or interesting objects work well to hook students.

Another way to include provocations in the classroom is to create a “Wonder Wall” filled with interesting pictures and quotes. Alternatively, setting up an inquiry table with related objects, art supplies, books, and other items can be very effective.

Brainstorm a few examples

Say you are starting an inquiry topic about Indigenous groups in Ontario. Begin by sharing your provocation. Then, provide some background information about Indigenous groups throughout Canada. Model asking good inquiry questions by incorporating them into your discussion naturally. For example:

There are a lot of Indigenous groups throughout Canada. They were the First Peoples to inhabit this country.

They lived for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived. It’d be interesting to know how they used to live compared to how we live today. Their way of life was very different from what the Europeans were used to when they came over.

I wonder what ways their lives were different? I wonder if the weather in Canada was different than the weather in parts of Europe. Do you think this meant different clothing or food or transportation? It’s so cool to think about how people used to live and how they dealt with new people arriving in their country.

How would you feel if someone showed up in your house? Let’s think about some questions we have about the Indigenous groups.

At this point, model writing questions down on a sticky note and place them in the Q-matrix in the correct place. Meanwhile, let students brainstorm ideas with their partners. They could also do this in small groups, or on whiteboards. When they’re ready to share them and write their final questions onto a sticky note. Click here for some excellent guidance on eliciting thoughtful questions in the classroom.

Group Chats

When discussing effective questions, it’s useful to let students share their top 3 questions with the group in a circle. This way, students can comment on the quality of the questions and offer feedback about ways to improve the question.

Maybe it should be a bit more specific? Perhaps the question could be answered easily and another student has a suggestion for how to broaden it? Is the question relevant to students and the community in general?

There are many benefits to group feedback, and constructive comments are just one of them.

Examples of Simple “Tweaks” to Steer Students To Asking Deeper Questions:

Example 1 – History Inquiry Questions:

Example 2 – Science Inquiry Questions:

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