Four effective questioning techniques for developing metacognition
Developing metacognitive skills starts with using effective questioning in the classroom. These questions develop learners’ reasoning and thinking skills, and indicate that there are multiple approaches to a maths problem. The exploratory language that is often used in open-ended questions in primary school maths invites reflection.
So why do teachers avoid using this questioning approach?
Often, it boils down to the fact that many teachers are unsure of where and how they can provide learners with an opportunity to engage in an open-ended task in a lesson.
If this sounds like you, here are four main categories of open-ended questions in primary school maths you can use.
1. Ask questions that give learners a starting point
Starter questions can be used as prompts to give learners a starting point without guiding them towards a specific direction.
Examples of starter questions are:
- How could you sort these?
- How many ways can you find to…?
- What happens when we…?
- What can be made from…?
- How many different [ ] can be found?
2. Ask questions that stimulate mathematical thinking
It’s important to ask questions that focus on particular strategies and help learners make generalisations by seeing patterns and relationships that can extend further than the mathematical area at hand.
You can use these types of questions as prompts if children get stuck. A common mistake teachers often make with these kinds of questions is the temptation to turn them into instructions, which can limit the opportunity for learners to explore topics more deeply and develop relational understanding.
Examples of questions that stimulate mathematical thinking:
- What is the same?
- What is different?
- Can you group these [ ] in some way?
- Can you see a pattern?
- How can this pattern help you find an answer?
- What do you think comes next? And why?
- Is there a way to record what you’ve found that might help us see more patterns?
- What would happen if…?
- Is there another way?
3. Ask assessment questions
Assessment questions assist in developing children’s reasoning skills by asking them to explain what they are doing. This sort of effective questioning in the classroom encourages children to reflect on their learning, develop critical-thinking skills and make deeper connections.
They also give you more insight into a learner’s thinking and their level of understanding.
Examples of assessment questions:
- What have you discovered?
- How did you find that out?
- Why do you think that?
- What made you decide to do it that way?
4. Ask final discussion questions
At the end of a lesson, ask children to discuss and compare all different strategies and methods used by the class. These are known as final discussion questions.
Final discussion questions develop learners’ metacognition skills by giving children the chance to see how their peers are working and encouraging them to evaluate their solutions against others in the class.
Here are a few examples:
- Who has the same answer/pattern/grouping as this? How do you know?
- Who has a different solution? How is it different?
- Are everybody’s results the same? Why or why not?
- Have we found all the possibilities? How do we know?
- Have you thought of another way this could be done?
- Do you think we have found the best solution?