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6 questions Rosenshine suggested you ask your students

6 questions Rosenshine suggested you ask your students

4 min read
  • Rosenshine’s Principles

Arguably one of the most powerful and effective elements of Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction is the importance of asking questions. But are some types of questions better than others? Let’s take a quick look at Rosenshine’s principles before highlighting 6 questions he recommends we use in the classroom to help students think more deeply…

Read our complete guide to Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction…

What are Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction?

Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction come from three research areas:

  • Cognitive Science
  • Classroom practices
  • Cognitive support

These principles aim to address how people learn and acquire new information as well as how teachers can implement effective classroom strategies. Currently, these principles are becoming increasingly popular in education – and with good reason: they are offering a much-needed bridge between research and practice.

Rosenshine’s third Principle of Instruction in particular is all about asking a high quantity of high-quality questions. As learning itself cannot be directly observed, asking questions can help you check your students’ understanding.

What types of questions should you use in your lesson?

There are different types of questions that students generally get asked within their lessons. These include both factual and process questions.

Factual questions

These types of questions require fact-based answers. For example, it could be specific questions about the material that was just taught or more broad questions such as asking a student to summarise the content.

Using factual questions allow you to use retrieval practice, which is the process of generating an answer to a question. One benefit of doing this is that recalling previously-learnt knowledge can create stronger memory traces, making it more likely to be transferred into your students’ long-term memory.

Process questions

Process questions allow students to explain the process they used to answer the question that was given to them. These types of questions can be used to help your students self-reflect and develop their metacognitive skills. Developing these skills are not only useful for their academic performance but will help them become independent learners, be more resilient and develop more grit.

Help your staff understand the research behind Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, and how to apply them in the classroom.

Do these questions work?

In a previous study, teachers were either trained to use more factual and process questions or did not receive any training before teaching students new material. Researchers found that students whose teachers received the training had much higher scores on the test than those who did not. Therefore, it seems that using these two types of questions can help your students gain more from the lesson.

6 questions Rosenshine suggested you ask your students

What are Rosenshine’s suggested questions?

To help build on this, in his seminal paper, Rosenshine listed several questions that he thinks can help develop student learning. These include:

1. What is the main idea of …?

This is a type of factual question. By implementing this question in the lesson, it can promote retrieval practice. It would be helpful to use this question after teaching new material, as it will allow students to consolidate their learning and check their understanding.

2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of …?

This type of question will allow your students to evaluate a topic. It can help encourage deeper thought into the material, which would help them learn the topic better.

3. How does this tie in with what we have learnt before?

Using this question in your classroom will encourage students to make connections between the two topics, helping them remember the material better. 

4. Which one is the best … and why?

You can use this type of question when comparing two different things, as it would encourage your students to be inquisitive. For example, it can be used when learning about different types of energy sources.

The addition of “why” to the question helps your students engage more deeply with the topic and elaborate on their answers. It can also allow the students to explain the process they used to answer the original question.

5. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: …?

This question encourages group work and helps prompt a discussion about the statement. In turn, it can improve your students’ overall learning experience as well as their ability to overcome conflict.

6. What do you still not understand about …?

Asking this question helps you establish how well the class engaged with the material and what is missing in their knowledge. It also makes it much easier to fill any gaps they may have in their knowledge. This also develops their ability to self-reflect, which can help improve their grades.

Final thoughts

It may sound simple to ask a lot of questions during your lessons, but asking the right ones can help your students engage more with their learning. Using Rosenshine’s suggested questions allows you to understand how well your class has engaged with the material, prompt the use of retrieval practice and help develop your students’ metacognitive skills.

To learn more about Rosenshine’s Principles and how to use them in the classroom, why not book our Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction CPD workshop?

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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