Borich Chapter 9 (reading Reflection #7, due 8/4)

NOTE:  what follows is basically my own rough outline of Chapter 9, my personal thoughts are in this font and color.

Motivational Questions

  1. What is an effective question?
  2. What are some different types of questions?
  3. What is a question-asking sequence?
  4. How do I ask questions at different levels of cognitive complexity?
  5. How do I ask questions that promote inquiry and problem solving?

Like questions, probes are effective catalysts for achieving the five key instructional goals of

  1. lesson clarity
  2. instructional variety
  3. task orientation
  4. student engagement in the learning process
  5. student success

What is a question?

voice inflection, word emphasis and word choice are key

Effective questions are those for which students actively compose responses and thereby become engaged in the learning process.

  • What Consumes 80% of Class Time?  (100 questions per class hour!)
    • Teacher provides structure, formulating topic or issue for discussion
    • Teacher solicits a response or asks questions of one or more students
    • The student responds or answers the question
    • The teacher reacts to the student’s answer

structuring, soliciting, reacting –> chain of events

  • Are We Asking the Right Questions?
    • 70%-80% simple fact recall
    • 20%-30% higher-level thought processes
      • clarifying
      • expanding
      • generalizing
      • making inferences (Borich, 2011, p. 299)

What are the purposes of questions?

lower order vs. higher order

Most reasons for asking questions fall into the following general categories.

  1. Getting interest and attention.
  2. Diagnosing and checking.
  3. Recalling specific facts or information.
  4. Managing
  5. Encouraging higher-level thought processes.
  6. Structuring and redirecting learning.
  7. Allowing expression of affect.

What are convergent and divergent questions?

convergent question (or direct or closed):  limits an answer to a single or a small number of responses.

divergent question (or indirect or open):  no single best answer but it can have wrong answers

sometimes convergent questions can become divergent. (is the opposite true?) 

  • What does research say about asking convergent and divergent questions

“Remember that far more convergent questions are raised in classrooms than divergent questions; the ratio is about 4:1.  The rationales for using higher-level, divergent-type questions include promotion of critical thinking, formation of concepts and abstractions, and encouragement of analysis-synthesis-evaluation” (Borich, 2011, p. 301).

    • research is mixed on effectiveness of divergent questioning
    • some studies have even reported larger gains with convergent than with divergent, but that’s bunk because
      • the tests used to measure are biased in favor of convergent (low cognitive complexity
      • divergent questioning takes time, and time is at a premium, which means studies are reflecting imbalance in instructional time
      • curriculum and texts don’t have divergent modes
      • harder to measure divergent thinking proficiency

Who are the targets of questions

for a group with varying ability questions should have varying complexity

What sequences of questions are used

question sequence:  structuring –> soliciting –> reacting but also divergent –> convergent


What levels of questions are used

besides divergent/convergent, learner-level-targeted, and sequenced questions need to have different levels of cognitive complexity


  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

NOTE:  the examples are good, but sometimes I wish the book was a little more focused on math and science.

  • Summary of Question Types
    • Type 1 behaviors:  direct instruction, convergent, knowledge, comprehension, application
    • Type 2 behaviors :  indirect instruction, divergent, analysis, synthesis, evaluation

What is a probe?

probe is a question that immediately follows a students response to a question and can:

  • elicit clarification
    • can you say that another way?
  • solicit new information
    • what other experiments would you do given your lab has been set up?
  • redirect or restructure the student’s response
    • If what you say ( A ) is right then ( B ) must follow, but is ( B ) true?

NOTE:  getting really good at re-direct is essential for good teaching.
NOTE:  Lemov talks about not accepting an answer until it is 100% right, the example in this chapter about latitude and longitude reminded me of that.

How should wait time be used?

  • Wait-time 1:  amount of time a teacher gives a learner to respond when first asked a question
  • Wait-time 2:  interval after a learner’s first response until the teacher or other students affirm or negate the answer

Increasing wait time helps

  • learners give longer answers to questions
  • learners volunteer more responses
  • with fewer unanswered questions
  • learners be more certain of their answers
  • learners bemore willing to give speculative answers
  • increase frequency of learner questions

NOTE:  we all hate the teacher / professor who viewed lecture as just a way to demonstrate their knowledge over everyone else in the class, well with no wait time that’s what it looks like to students.  FYI.

  • Plan the types of questions you will ask
  • Deliver questions in a style that is concise, clear, and to the point
  • Allow time for students to think (wait time 1)
  • Keep students in suspense.
  • Give the student sufficient time to complete his or her response before redirecting the question or probing (wait-time 2)
  • Provide immediate feedback to the learner.


What is culturally responsive questioning.

sociolinguistics:  the study of cultural differences in conversation

there are rules of culture-specific questioning

  • Wait Time:  varies by culture, can be long or short, you just need to learn.
  • Rhythm:  school might seem intense or too lax depending or culture of origin
  • Participation Structure: 

NOTE:  good suggestion here:  if you really want to get to know your students, observe them in any other environment than at school

  • Language:  English may not be dominant receptive or expressive langugea
    • emphasize other forms of communication
    • be sensitive to cultural differences
    • evaluate the reading level and format of materials you use
    • do not confuse language proficiency with subject matter achievement or ability

What are common problems in using questions

  • Do you use complex, ambiguous, or double questions?
    • Focus each question on only one idea
    • State the main idea only once
    • Use concrete language
    • State the question in as few words as possible
  • Do you accept only answers you expect?
    • sometimes comes from bias for/against certain students
  • Why are you asking this question?
    • Have a plan for what you are asking and where it is going.
  • Do you answer the question yourself?
    • Don’t do this it is demoralizing for the student
  • Do you use questions as punishment

NOTE:  there is a popular class (internal education) at Microsoft called Precision Questioning.  That term was popularized by Dennis Matthies and Monica Worline according to, and current information on that training can be found here:

Here is one description of precision questioning.

I thought you might be interested in an innovative type of training that has been very effective in other companies like Microsoft and Cypress Semiconductor. It is called Precision Questioning (PQ).

PQ is a tool for doing two things: improving the efficiency of business conversations and raising the level of critical thinking. It is taught as a one-day workshop in which participants learn the core principles of PQ and how to apply these principles to their daily work.  The workshop is interactive throughout and makes extensive use of video.

At Microsoft and Cypress Semiconductor, PQ is a core course and is taught world-wide. More than 20,000 people in over 40 countries have taken the workshop. Because individuals trained in PQ are able to apply the concepts from the workshop the next day, benefits are immediate.

We could try one of their open-enrollment workshops and if we like it, we could look at an in-house test workshop. They offer a train-the-trainer option if we want to roll it out across the organization. If you think this is worth looking into, you may want to visit their website ( or we could set up a meeting with them.


Borich, G. D. (2011). Effective Teaching Methods: Research-Based Practice. (7th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

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