This unit is a guideline to a teacher on how to ask good questions in class and also help to train learners on question approach.


Meaning of Question and Answer

The question and answer method is sometimes referred to as the Socratic Method because that is where it takes its root. Socrates the Greek philosopher was involved in the sue of questions to probe his students’ competence and capability to be involved in intellectual discourse.

However, note that Socrates was dealing with mature students (men), who by today’s educational system are postgraduates. With this at the back of our minds knowing that we are dealing with teenagers and adolescents we shall refer to this method as the question and answer method.

Question and answer method is one of the most common methods used by secondary school teachers. The pattern typically begins with the teacher asking a question and then recognizing one student who answers. Next the teacher reacts verbally in some way, to the students’ response and asks a question of another student who then responds. (see Farell and Farmer, 1980).

As in the case with the lecture method, the teacher may write something on the chalkboard and sometimes the students takes notes. Thus, the working definition for Question and Answer method is “the teacher asks a question one student answers; the teachers reacts and asks another question which is responded to by a second student and so forth.

Many teachers believe question and answer method is a method that enables the teacher to find out who knows what. Only one student responds at a time, a sample of only one student out of several students. Question and answer method is extremely valuable as a way to guide development thinking to stimulate creative problem solving, to initiate discussion and to stimulate and guide recall of requisites needed for the day’s lesson.

The type of question posed, the preamble to the question posed and the variety of ways used to encourage and accept responses are all skills that make the difference between thoughtful and dull sequences.

Aims of Questions

1. Questions find out the past that needs further treatment and practice.

2. Questions enable the teacher to read his pupils minds, and make the pupil to express what they have understood in the lesson.

3. Questions make pupils think and find out things which they

otherwise might not bother about.

4. Teachers use questions as a means of making contact with their pupils.

5. Questions develop understanding of the pupils and encourage them to reason out matters for themselves.

6. By means of questioning a teacher is able to test the knowledge of a child so that gaps may be filled in and misconceptions righted.

7. Questions help pupils to build up their ideas in the way the teacher wants.

1. Presentation or Teaching Questions – These are questions used when the lesson is in its prime stage, i.e. when the teacher is actually demonstrating or explaining the processes and he aims to impart the knowledge to his pupils. They serve to make alert both the teacher and the pupils to the subject matter.

2. Pause Questions – Are used because they provide a useful break in the lessons to assure a teacher that pupils are attentively following the lessons.

3. Guide Questions – These are asked to direct the children’s special attention to some important points in the lessons. Such questions help to secure careful observation, skillful correlation and accuracy.

4. Summary Questions – These are asked to help to review what has been taught. Through the answers given to these questions by the children the teacher assesses his own failure and success. The teacher should frame the questions in such a way that logical answers should be raised in the children.

5. Drill Questions – These should be asked at the beginning or at the end of the lesson and should not take too long a time, say five minutes. Such questions serve to encourage the children to be alert e.g. mental sums in Arithmetic.

The Principles Which a Teacher Should Observe When Asking Oral Questions

1. Questions must be clear and definite in meaning and wording.

2. Questions should always deal with essentials. They should be so put as to help the whole class when at work.

3. Questions should stimulate real thought, questions suggesting the answers should be avoided e.g. did Abraham show much faith when he offered his son? Yes)

4. Questions should be asked before a pupil is called upon to answer. Such a procedure keeps all pupils active, thus assisting in the diagnosis of difficulties – discovery of weaknesses.

5. Questions should be distinctly given and must be audible to the class, but not shouted.

6. Questions should be carefully prepared before hand and they should be put in a logical order.

7. Never repeat your questions. If you do, your pupils will get into the habit of waiting to hear you the second time. Ask once only so that they may listen all the time. Questions should not be repeated because a pupil fails to understand it because of inattention, the question may be repeated.

8. Avoid leading questions – leading questions result sometimes from poor ability to think and to phrase questions. In Social Studies, such questions are blunders e.g. Pericles was banished from Athens, was he not?

9. Avoid questions that will admit different answers e.g. what do you see in the compound? A child may see trees, another a sheep, and all will be right. A question that admits many answers is vague e.g. what is the most important thing you notice about the object.

10. Questions which will involve simultaneous or chorus answers should be avoided; they may be used occasionally to drill in certain facts and to brighten up a class.

11. Questions in a class should be carried on in a sociable spirit, the

teacher is to look at his class and talk to them as friend to friend.

12. The objects of the questions should be clear and definite. If the objective is not clear, then the question is vague, general and unfair to the pupils. It indicates laziness, inexact thinking or no preparation by the teacher.

13. Do not ask corroborative questions – those ending in “isn’t it”, “Aren’t they” such are really of little value. Avoid questions which will need “yes” or “No”, they encourage guessing.

14. Do not use elliptical questions such as “Abuja is the Federal capital of ………….. ? That leads to little mental effort.

 Characteristics of Good Questions

It is commonly heard especially among junior teachers such questions as “Don’t you hear what I say?” The teacher being angry unnecessarily, repeats his questions. The children are threatened; the questioner is annoyed, there is a muddle and no good answer comes from the pupils. Who is at fault? It is the teacher’s fault in most cases.

The question may not be clear, inaudible or it may be bad repetition. To avoid these mistakes therefore the following should be noted:

1. Clearness – Children should understand questions if correct answers are expected from them. The words with which the questions are framed should be familiar to the children, and they should be stated clearly. Good questions are the outcome of good thinking and precise expression. Precise expression could only be successfully attained if it is cultivated in speech generally. Hence the importance of speech training in the infant and lower classes.

2. Definiteness – The question should limited the field for generalization. As a rule the question requiring “YES” or “NO” should as far as possible avoided, so also is the elliptical form of question such do encourage children to guess work.

3. Interest – Questions should be interesting. They should provoke enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge.

4. Fair Distribution – Questions should be fairly distributed. The teacher should see to it that his questions give encouragement to those of his pupils who are modest or shy or those who are too lazy to think. Questions may be graded according to the capacity of the different members of the class to take care of individual differences..

Questions should be asked in rotation. Every child should feel he could be called upon at any moment and that is why questions should be abruptly directed to the inattentive and the careless.

Sufficient time must be allowed for a thoughtful answer but this does not mean that the teacher should allow time to be wasted by the dull members of the class.

Students’ Questions

It is the characteristic of a good teacher to allow his pupils to ask questions. Their questions need not be asked privately on only the subjects taught in the school all the time, but also on general matters which help to develop the intelligence of the children. Usually the distribution of questions should be as wide as possible.

When a teacher is dealing with the whole class, pausing to give time for consideration is desirable before asking a specific pupil to answer. This permits consideration of the question by the whole class. When a pupil’s name precedes the questions, the challenge to the remaining members of the class is diminished (Question, pause and name).


The treatment of answers is as important as the treatment of questions. The relevance of the answers depends much on the nature of the questions. The qualities of good questions are the teacher’s sole concern but those of answering depend both upon the teacher’s and the pupils.

Good answers are indication of successful teaching and ability to put questions to their pupils in a suitable manner. They also show keen interest and attention on the part of the pupils. They are really tests of intelligence on the part of the teacher as well as his pupils.

An incorrect answer may reveal ignorance in which case it should be rejected outright. But should incorrectness be due to grammatical mistakes and carelessness, the particular pupils should be led to correct himself and should he fail to do so, other members of the class should be asked to help. The teacher’s own correct answer should be the last resort. The pupils who make the wrong answer should be made to repeat the correct sentences or statement.

Superfluous Answers

Let the child repeat the question and discover for himself the superfluity of the answer. Though the teacher should not be satisfied but with best answer, yet he should give credit to honest efforts to answer his question. All good answers should receive some words of commendation from the teacher.

All inattentive and thoughtless answers should be fairly refused without any signs of ridicule because children are very sensitive to ridicule and sarcastic expressions. Such expressions may dampen the child’s enthusiasm to answer further questions and make him shy to do his best.

.It is wise to insist on asking every answer a complete sentence, although there are some certain questions whose nature simply requires answers in YES or NO forms. Where the teacher wishes the questions in a complete sentence and the child deviates, let the teacher ask the child to put the answer in a complete sentence.

Characteristics of a Good Answer

1. It should be absolutely relevant to the question

2. It should be expressed very clearly in few words

3. It should be grammatically correct

4. It should be a good answer

5. It should not be superfluous

6. It should show a sense of intelligence.

3.8 The Treatment of Answers

The teacher does not only require skills in questioning, he must also be adept in dealing with answers. Some teachers do not emphasize important features of a lesson topic by failing to make use of answers given.

The pattern of question answering should follow the lines of friendly conversation. Some teachers demand rigid military standing position when answering questions.

If a child cannot answer correctly, he remains standing until a correct answer is given by a fellow pupil. Other teachers feel that questions can be answered just as well as when the pupils are sitting.

In a well managed classroom the following suggestions have merits and are worthy of trial.

1. With few exceptions pupils should stand when giving answers. An erect, relaxed posture is most desirable. If a pupil does not know that answer to a question, he should stand, courteously indicating that he does not know and then resumes his seat.

2. Many, but not all answers should be given in a complete form.

This is the teacher’s opportunity to stress good enunciation and correct oral expression of junior pupils to express their answers in sentence form.

3. Simultaneous answering should be discouraged. It tends to encourage slow or indifferent pupils to hide their inadequacies and to discourage initiative.

4. It is not always wise for a teacher to accept immediately the first answer given. It is frequently a good practice to ask a number of pupils for answers before indicating the correct response. This encourages the habit of evaluating answers.

5. To repeat answers is a waste of time and energy. It encourages pupils in faulty habits, speech and inaudible replies. If repetition for the sake of emphasis is desired, a pupils should be requested to give the answer.

6. The teacher should always acknowledge an answer but avoid the use of stereotyped phrases indicating approval of correct answers. Give credit for effort where effort is genuine. One would not commend a pupil in Grade VI for trying to answer the question “what are 5 and 3?”

7. A pupil should be permitted to complete his answers without interception except he is extremely verbose (too many words) and out of point.

8. If the answer to a question is not forthcoming, the teacher, after a brief pause, may either rephrase or explain the point with which it deals.

9. Wrong answer – Wrong answers may be dealt with in one or

two ways:

– If the purpose of the question is the recall of factual materials the teacher should ask another pupil to answer. The first pupil may

then be required to repeat the information given in the correct answer.
– If the question asked calls for a judgment or decision, the teacher, when the incorrect answer is given, may rephrase the question. By series of questions, the teacher may lead the pupils to give the correct answer.

 A Wrong Answer

Children who give wrong answers should never be left in any doubt that their answers are wrong. Sometimes, it is possible without wasting time, to help a pupil to see where his answer is wrong.

The pupil who gives a wrong answer should be made to repeat the correct sentence or statement.

When a wrong answer is given, questions the child further about it, this will reveal where his wrong notion lies and enables you to get to the root of his mistakes. It is good for the pupil who gives the wrong answer to find out the mistake and correct it, provided that this does not waste the time of the rest of the class.

 A Partially Correct Answer

What does one do when a pupil gives an answer only partially correct. Partly correct answers need not be refused, but its incompleteness should be pointed out and the rest of the answers obtained if possible from the same pupil. Partly correct answers have frequency to be accepted, but the necessary information can be supplied by others. In most cases, the pupils called first should then be required to give the full answer.

If a child gives an answer that is partly correct, make use of the correct part and ignore the wrong. Give him some encouragement and make him feel he can give good answers to your questions. An answer which is only partly right may be used as a starting point and a correct and complete answer gradually builds up from it by further questioning.

No Answer

What does one do when a pupil gives a wrong answer to a question. The teacher should let the child repeat the question and discover for himself the mistakes in the answer; although the teacher should not be satisfied but with the best answer yet, he should give credit to honest efforts to answer his questions.

If a pupil fails to produce an answer or the desired answer, the teacher should go back a few steps to find out where the difficulty lies. He may find out that an explanation of some part is necessary before the question can be answered. When a teacher asks a question which no one in the class tries the answer he must understand at once that he has chosen the wrong question or that he asked the question in a wrong way.

The teacher should think of some other ways of putting what he has in mind to the pupils. He should prepare very well for the pupils, he should give sufficient time to think about the questions. The wording of the questions should be direct, precise and expressed in clear language.


The use of questions in the classroom is an effective way of teaching. Like all teaching methods the teachers should be familiar with the characteristics of good question and how to assess the responses by the students what has been covered in this unit. The pitfalls to be avoided were also highlighted.

Source: School of Education, National Open university of Nigeria


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