Facilitating Productive STEM Discourse: Questioning in Whole Class Discussion

Educator fosters productive whole class discussion about important STEM content through the use of effective questioning techniques.
Made by Trellis
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Graduate-level credit is available for this micro-credential. You can apply for credit through one of our university partners after successfully completing the micro-credential.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Educator facilitates whole class discussion by asking open-ended and probing questions ofξ students at all levels.

Method Components

Questioning Components

  • Educator asks probing questions that support students to explain their mathematical and/or scientific thinking and developing ideas
    • educator ask questions that require more than one-word answers
    • student responses show deeper level of thought
    • educator questioning focuses on processes and reasoning, not solutions
    • educator asks “why” questions that require examples and reasons as the justification
  • Educator asks follow up questions to focus on connections among different students’ strategies, processes or methods
    • questions are used to build collective knowledge
    • student responses inform teacher questions
    • educator incorporates student responses into subsequent questions
    • educator provides opportunities for students to engage with the reasoning of other students
    • educator questioning allows students to see connections between mathematical and/or scientific ideas without telling them
    • educator provides opportunities for students to build off the mathematical and scientific thinking of others

Example questions:

  • What is puzzling about this?
  • What do we know? What do we want to know?
  • How does this build on ___ ideas?
  • How did you get this?
  • Why does this make sense to you?
  • Can you rephrase what ______ just said?
  • What would be another way to represent the information?
  • How are these two ideas similar? Different?

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Michelle Cirillo. "What Are Some Strategies For Facilitating Productive Classroom Discussions?" NCTM.org. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 23 Jan. 2013. Web.


Costa’s Levels of Questioning

Arthur Costa’s Model of Intellectual Functioning provides a model as a way to organize thinking and questioning into three levels. Costa’s model focuses on a way for students to think about levels of questions they can ask to deepen their knowledge of the material being presented.

Danielson’s Framework for Teaching Domain 3

The Danielson Framework for Teaching is a research-based set of components of instruction, aligned to the INTASC standards and grounded in a constructivist view of learning and teaching. The complex activity of teaching is divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility. Component 3b of this framework explicitly focuses on “Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques”.

Blooms Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a hierarchical way of thinking about levels of questions.ξ This provides a way to craft questions into levels from the most basic, knowledge, to the most cognitively demanding level of creating.

In this article, several suggestions are made to help educators develop the powerful instructional strategy of questioning. Questioning is essential in a problem-solving mathematics classroom. To use questions effectively educators must plan the questions ahead of time and use a variety of question types in order to develop student understanding of mathematics and to foster mathematical discourse.

Trellis Vision for Ambitious STEM Teaching - Reflection Tools & Checklists

This is a collection of tools for supporting and gathering evidence of teachers’ enactment of core STEM teaching practices defined by Trellis Education.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and a “Yes” for each component in Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(450 word limit)

Activity Description:

  • What is the STEM learning objective of the classroom discussion?
  • What questions do you anticipate asking in order to get students to explain their thinking and what will inform how you scaffold those questions?
  • Give possible student responses to your questions and describe your strategy for deciding what appropriate follow up questions should be asked. Be sure to describe how the follow up questions will build on student responses and provide opportunities for students to engage in each others’ thinking and reasoning.
  • How do you expect these questions will help the students meet the learning objective?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Please submit evidence toward your demonstration of competency in facilitating whole class discourse through questioning. This may be in a video demonstrating implementation of your questioning strategy, a transcript of the teacher questions and student responses, or an Audio/recorded session that includes questioning.

Part 3. Educator Reflection

(250 Word limit)

  • What modifications, if any, did you make to your initial plan during the lesson? Why did you choose to make those changes?
  • What questions did you feel were the most effective? Why do you think these questions were successful?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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