The Art of Questioning

One of the most critical skills a coach can learn and practice is the art of questioning. And it truly is an art when it comes to a teacher-coach relationship. There are all sorts of questions a coach can ask. Here is a list of some, not all question types:

  • Factual questions- details about standards, lesson planning, students, etc.
    • What standard will you focus on for this lesson?
    • How many of your students need a scaffold to be successful during this lesson?
  • Yes/No questions- simple questions that allow a teacher to feel comfortable about the topic at hand by first starting with easy questions to answer
    • Have you read this text before?
    • Do you know the Lexile level of this text?
    • Do you have the manipulatives you need for this math lesson?

question marks

  • Clarifying questions- important follow-up questions to ensure the teacher and the coach have a common understanding of the elements of instruction and learning
    • Can you tell me more about the “struggles” you observed your students having during the lesson?
    • What “student behaviors” bothered you?
    • What do you mean by “engagement” during a lesson?
  • Reflective questions- open-ended questions created to help the teacher reflect on his/her practice
    • How do you feel about the lesson?
    • Why you do think the students were successful?
  • Wondering statements- not technically a question, but a statement that is shared in the hopes that a teacher can reflect on a particular topic
    • I wonder what might happen if we had the students talk to their partners before we ask them to write.
    • What do you think might happen if we don’t provide that scaffold?
  • Loaded invitations – I’m borrowing this concept from Katie Wood Ray and her book Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop, where she borrowed the idea from Peter Johnston. A loaded invitation presupposes that someone is thinking about a particular topic.
    • What are you thinking about student engagement during your Read Alouds?
    • What are you thinking about providing more independence for students?


Questioning becomes an art in the heat of the moment. A coach must be skilled enough to know which type of question will work in any particular coaching conversation, and be able to think on the fly. I always encourage coaches to write down some sample questions or question stems for themselves before going into any coaching conversation, especially if they know themselves well enough to know that this isn’t yet an area of strength for them.

The best way to improve your questioning skills is to practice. This involves a lot of listening! While role-playing makes many people (especially introverts!) uncomfortable, this can be an important tool to support coaches in their questioning skills.

Thanks to #educoach for the blogging challenge/inspiration this month! 




Previous posts about questioning:

Facilitating Learning by Questioning


Reflective Questions




About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
This entry was posted in Coaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Art of Questioning

  1. I am really trying to focus on my listening skills. As coaches, we really need to be aware of our own actions – wording, questioning, body language.

  2. Great post on questioning!! I think the reflective questions (or inquiry questions as I call them) are where the real change happens!!! Nice job!!

  3. Alex says:

    I do believe there is an art to questioning. I now have a term for something I do, “loaded invitations”. I agree that listening and practice practice are key. Great post!

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