With the opportunities for us to check for understanding significantly reduced due to COVID restrictions, we must rely on effective questioning to gauge what has and hasn’t been learnt.

The basis for effective questioning is twofold. First, you need a solid basis of subject knowledge. Second, know how, when and what to question.

Here are some approaches that might help…

Cold call

Cold call questioning can significantly increase your lesson’s participation and think ratios.

When coupled with wait time, this approach becomes even more effective. Cold call questioning also allows you to better target the class, ensuring your distribution is even, differentiated and well spread.

Don’t cold call students you know aren’t engaged, however – it’s not a re-engagement tool.

Hinge questions

Deciding whether something has been learnt to the required level can be done through some effectively placed hinge questions.

This diagnostic approach lets you decide the direction of the learning – focus your hinge question(s) around key concepts, ideas or skills to check if the class is ready to move on, or if you’ll need to recover parts of the learning.


Good questioning often comes down to students’ ability to engage with the questions posed. If a student struggles to answer, break down the question or provide some scaffolding – don’t just move on to someone else. Build a culture of questioning in your class by ensuring that there’s no opting out of questions.

You can take your questioning to the next level by employing Socratic-style questioning, or stretch your learners further by interspersing lessons with more complex questioning patterns.

Adam Riches is a senior leader for teaching and learning; follow him at @teachmrriches

This piece originally appeared in ‘Learning Lab’ section of Teach Secondary magazine