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Questing: A Tool to Improve Class Participation

Janelle Cox

All teachers strive to encourage active class participation and learning. What some may not realize is that the way we ask questions and respond to students’ answers in the classroom determines the depth of thinking that follows. If you want to increase class participation and encourage active learning, then you will want to try questing. Here we will take a look at what it is, and how it works.

What is Questing?

The Thoughtful Education Press defines questing as the process in which students and teachers work together to explore and search for answers. Each answer is merely the first step to an even better answer. It is essentially the building block in which students can construct a more-meaningful answer. Once a student has responded to a teacher’s answer, the teacher can then do one of three things: ask further questions, make a statement, or not answer.


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Here we will take a look at the five steps to “Questing.”

  1. Pose a question to students.
  2. The teacher models the way of thinking, and provides access to the information that is needed to answer the question that was asked.
  3. Establish a gap in between the question and the answer. This is the time that is given for students to think about the question and the answer before answering. Teachers should encourage students not to answer impulsively.
  4. Have students search for answers in books, online, through pictures, in their notes, etc. They should write down their answer to help clarify their thinking.
  5. Have students discuss the question and possible answers in small groups. This step gives students the opportunity to test their answers and communicate their ideas in a group setting. Then the whole class engages in a class discussion.

Sample “Quest” Lesson

Here is a sample lesson to help you understand what the procedure should look like.

  • Question all Students. How is a tornado like a vacuum cleaner?
  • Understand and Model. To create a direct analogy, list everything you know about the two ideas that you are comparing. Look for commonalities among the two ideas. Look for unusual connections.
  • Establish a Gap. List everything that you know about a tornado and a vacuum cleaner. Now look for interesting connections between them.
  • Search for Answers. Search for possible answers in books, through pictures, or in your notes. Then write down or sketch your ideas in your notebook.
  • Talk in Small Groups. Share your ideas with your group. Place a star next to the ideas that are similar to yours. See if you can generate new connections.


Q-Space is similar to Questing. This strategy was adapted from the work of Strong, Hanson and Silver (1995) to increase the depth of students’ thoughts. Here we will take a quick look at the components in Q-Space.

Q – uestion. This is the posing of a focus question.

S –ilence and Wait Time. This is the time students need to think about the question and answer. Teachers should wait 5-15 seconds before responding, depending upon the thinking that is required to answer the question.

P-robing. Responding to an answer with another question will focus students to explain or support their answer. For example, the teacher would ask questions such as “How did you come to that conclusion?” and “What evidence do you have to support your answer?”

A-ccepting. Accept an answer without judgment. All answers have the potential to be a good answer. Use words like “I see” and “That can be possible.”

C-larifying and Correcting. This when a teacher or student paraphrasing a student’s answer. This helps the student understand what they said and reflect on their thinking. For example, you can say “What you said was …”

E-laborting and Extending. Ask students to elaborate on what they are saying. This can help students come to an even better answer.

Questing and Q-Space are both great tools to help improve the quality and depth of student answers, as well as encourage active class participation and learning. Try them out and let us know what you think.

What strategies do you use to improve the quality of student questions and answers? Share with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators