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Tutor Tips

Effective Questioning Strategies

Questioning Techniques

Questioning is one of the most important dimensions of teaching and learning. It gives tutors the chance to find out what students know and understand, and it allows students to seek clarification and help.

There are many types of questions. One dichotomy is the closed vs. open question types.
Closed questions require only a yes/no or single answer, factual response, while open questions require students to reflect thoughtfully on the subject.

Another way of understanding question types is in terms of lower vs. higher order questions. Lower order questions are usually "what" questions. They typically test the knowledge students have about definitions or meanings. Higher order questions tend to be "why" and "how" questions which encourage students to think more deeply about a concept or the reasons for an answer. Your tutorials should include both types of questions, with an emphasis on higher order questions which challenge your students and make them think.

Some tutors plan key questions ahead of time. You may do this by jotting down questions or notes before or even during the tutorial. These notes will act as prompts to guide your questioning.



Example Questions

Open-ended Comprehension Questions

  • Amplify: “Tell me more about that.”
  • Clarify: “What do you mean when you say such and such? Explain that a bit more.”
  • Paraphrase/Summarize: “Tell me what happened in your own words.”
  • Cause/Effect: “Which happened first? Did that lead to something? Why? What were the causes?”
  • Compare Contrast: “What do these two have in common? How are they different? Have you learned anything like this before? What does this information remind you of?”
  • Example: “Can you give an example of this?”
  • Definition: “How would you define this?”
  • Characteristic: “What’s a characteristic of this?”
  • Qualification: “When is this not true? Are there any exceptions to this?”

Source: Meyer, E., & Smith L.Z. (1987). The practical tutor. New York: Oxford University Press. p.34.


Closed-ended Memory Level Questions

  • “What is the acceleration due to gravity?”
  • “What does the “I” stand for?”
  • “How do you form the past tense?”

Source: Gattis, K. (2002). A look at productive tutoring techniques user’s guide. 2 nd. Ed. Raleigh: North Carolina State University. P. 42.



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