Challenging Learning Through Questioning

Facilitating the Process of Effective Learning

Martin Renton (2020)
with a forward by James Nottingham

“The beauty and power of this book is moving the debate away from the nature of teacher questions to the wonderful process of questioning. This process involves more than the teacher; it begs for questions moving learning forward, not reinforcing facts; it asks for questioning for exploration, excitement, extending, evaluating, and engagement. Renton opens the possibilities for questioning to improve learning and he provides so much advice to advance a pedagogy of questioning”
John Hattie, Laureate Professor, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Australia

Highlights of the book include:
  • Recognising that questioning is a skill that you can learn, develop and improve
  • Developing questioning as a sequence of moves that improve your student’s thinking
  • Identify the purpose of your questioning to improve student outcomes
  • Tools and prompts that help you plan incisive responses
  • Techniques for staying silent, to allow students time to think and process
  • Questioning through the Learning Pit, to encourage your students to struggle and find new ways to explore their understanding
  • Using questioning as feedback about your expectations for challenge, reasoning, language, and reflection
  • Easy-to-use frameworks for managing whole-class questioning
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“If you are ready to approach questioning as a powerful process that has the potential to transform learning, you need this book. Challenging Learning Through Questioning is a game changer. Renton has delivered a must-read, practical pedagogical guide to questioning that will not only challenge your current notions about the practice but will simultaneously show you how to hone this essential instructional skill. What you will encounter is a systematic approach and countless strategies, derived from Renton’s own practice, that can be implemented immediately to facilitate deeper levels of thinking, reasoning, and learning for all. I highly recommend this essential guide to questioning for all educators looking to make a significant impact. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the best!“
Sarah Callahan, Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, NY, USA

If you are ready to approach questioning as a powerful process that has the potential to transform learning, you need this book. Challenging Learning Through Questioning is a game changer. Renton has delivered a must-read, practical pedagogical guide to questioning that will not only challenge your current notions about the practice but will simultaneously show you how to hone this essential instructional skill. What you will encounter is a systematic approach and countless strategies, derived from Renton’s own practice, that can be implemented immediately to facilitate deeper levels of thinking, reasoning, and learning for all. I highly recommend this essential guide to questioning for all educators looking to make a significant impact. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the best!“

Sarah Callahan, Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, NY, USA

What makes this book different?

This is not a book about questions: I do not believe that closed questions or open questions exist. This is a book about question-ing: a process. To make questioning really effective, we have to consider it as a way of creating purposeful classroom dialogue. The power of questioning lies in its ability to move your students forward in a way that gives them both time and a reason to think. We help you identify what you want the students to gain from your interactions and provide tools to construct the most appropriate questioning sequences for progress.

This book provides you with strategies and tools that create more focussed, incisive questioning moves which promote deeper thinking, better understanding and ultimately lead students to ask more of their own questions. By the end of the book, you will notice a difference in the way you engage with your students and how you respond to them in dialogue.

Book Features

As Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.” With that in mind, Challenging Learning Through Questioning has several features to help navigate the book, including:

  • Notes sections for scribbling ideas as you read
  • Section numbers to support navigation and cross-referencing (they also remain constant – unlike page numbers – when the book is translated into other languages)
  • ‘Now Try This’ sections to guide and support professional learning
  • Printable tips and prompts to support your questioning in action

Intended Audience

Suitable for teachers, leaders and support staff working with students between the ages of 5-19. For those working with 3-7-year-old children, you can find further great ideas in ‘Challenging Early Learning’ by James Nottingham and Jill Nottingham (2017).

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“In Challenging Learning Through Questioning, Renton challenges myths like labelling questions as “open” or “closed,” and instead presents questioning moves as stepping-stones to effective questioning and learning. An important, well-written, and well-researched book with new perspectives like The Taxonomy of Silence. It will definitely make you question your own use of questions in the classroom and help students become more thoughtful thinkers. What more could you ask from a book. . . ?”
Bosse Larsson, Freelance Consultant, Sweden
“This is a fascinating insight into our understanding and use of questioning, providing us with a powerful opportunity to reflect on the quality of questioning that takes place in our classrooms. It’s a rich resource, that will support quality, long-term change, enhance teachers’ questioning skills, and effectively promote deeper learning to have maximum impact through increased student engagement. Never has silence been so powerful.“
Judy Martyn, Headteacher, Highweek Primary School, Newton Abbot, UK
“This is an eloquently written book that offers both insight and practical ways of supporting teachers and their learners to make progress. His book highlights that we can all develop our questioning skills to support our learners to think deeply and meaningfully. After all; it isn’t what we ask but what we do with what we hear that matters.”
Leonie Anstey, Freelance Consultant, Victoria, Australia
“The strategies and concepts that are detailed in the book are focused on using questioning in a way that extends learning rather than evaluating learning, which is often the focus of current questioning practices. The questioning suggestions and the examples shared will resonate with all educators, regardless of experience, interests, or background.”
Carmen Bergmann, Asst Superintendent, Regional Office of Education #17, Bloomington, USA

In Challenging Learning Through Questioning, Renton challenges myths like labelling questions as “open” or “closed,” and instead presents questioning moves as stepping-stones to effective questioning and learning. An important, well-written, and well-researched book with new perspectives like The Taxonomy of Silence. It will definitely make you question your own use of questions in the classroom and help students become more thoughtful thinkers. What more could you ask from a book. . . ?”

Bosse Larsson, Freelance Consultant, Sweden

This is a fascinating insight into our understanding and use of questioning, providing us with a powerful opportunity to reflect on the quality of questioning that takes place in our classrooms. It’s a rich resource, that will support quality, long-term change, enhance teachers’ questioning skills, and effectively promote deeper learning to have maximum impact through increased student engagement. Never has silence been so powerful.“

Judy Martyn, Headteacher, Highweek Primary School, Newton Abbot, UK
 

This is an eloquently written book that offers both insight and practical ways of supporting teachers and their learners to make progress. His book highlights that we can all develop our questioning skills to support our learners to think deeply and meaningfully. After all; it isn’t what we ask but what we do with what we hear that matters.”

Leonie Anstey, Freelance Consultant, Victoria, Australia

The strategies and concepts that are detailed in the book are focused on using questioning in a way that extends learning rather than evaluating learning, which is often the focus of current questioning practices.  The questioning suggestions and the examples shared will resonate with all educators, regardless of experience, interests, or background.”

Carmen Bergmann, Asst Superintendent, Regional Office of Education #17, Bloomington, USA

Related Links

Rubbish Lesson, Brudenell

Ten Tips for Questioning

Consultancy to Help You Develop Effective Questioning

Ways to Enhance Dialogue

Related Links