Questioning: pose, pause, pounce, bounce

First published on Tales From The Reach blog on 26 April 2018 and then the Herts & Bucks TSA blog on 16 May 2018.

Researchers have estimated that the teachers ask between 300 and 400 questions a day, which could equate to 70,000 a year and around 3 million by the time they retire. Therefore, we ask questions all the time in lessons; from knowledge retrieval, to understanding instructions and checking learning.

However, too often poor teachers just ask basic questions, which are normallyclosed questions that have specific short answers. Although this may be useful for occasionally checking subject knowledge, and perhaps wider understanding in subjects like mathematics, it does not foster critical thinking nor pupils’ analysis and evaluation skills. Moreover, really bad questioning will allow pupils to answer closed questions by putting their hands up. This is now considered a general ‘no-no’ by many educationalists as it means those pupils not wanting to participate will sit there passively. It also means that you cannot target questions at pupils by ability or see if a wide range of pupils have understood what is being taught.

One way around this it to use the pose, pause, pounce and bounce (PPPB) technique advocated by Ross Morrison McGill (2011) and attributed to Pam Fearnley. The idea is to engage all pupils by posing a question that any one of them may have to answer; this would be a hands down activity and would involve giving students thinking time. McGill breaks the technique down like this:

  • Pose: explain the PPPB technique to your class so they know what you are doing; make sure pupils know it is a hands down approach and that they will be selected randomly; and ask questions that pupils will have to think about in some depth.
  • Pause: give the class thinking time. This could be anything from 30 seconds for short explanations or longer for more reflective ones. McGill advocates holding the silence for a while if the pupils are captivated and engaged.
  • Pounce: think about who you will ask. This can be useful for targeting questions at certain pupils to see if they have understood. You could, therefore, ask in a way that a pupil of a particular ability would comprehend or be able to answer.
  • Bounce: once one pupil has answered, ask another to respond. This is how the question is ‘bounced’ between students. Here, you could engage critical disagreement or analysis of pupils’ ideas as one pupil critiques what another has said.

See Dylan William explain this below:

The featured image is from Pexels and used here under a Creative Commons Licence.

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