Powerful Questioning

Strategies for improving learning and retention in the classroom

By: Michael Chiles


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Published: April 2023
Pages : 184
ISBN : 9781785835964
Format: Paperback
Size: 216 x135mm

Powerful Questioning: Strategies for improving learning and retention in the classroom by Michael Chiles is an evidence-based examination of the power of questioning in the classroom and how it can be improved. 

Foreword by John Hattie.

Questioning is a staple feature of a teacher’s toolkit across all phases of education. Classrooms are awash with explanation, modelling and feedback, but of all the pedagogical strategies at a teacher’s disposal, questioning is one of the most important. It is the heartbeat of a classroom. While the art of asking a question seems relatively straightforward, to what extent do teachers consider the types of questions they’re using? Are the questions they ask students actually helping to support learning? In Powerful Questioning, Michael Chiles delves into the complexity of asking questions and how best to use this pedagogical tool as a powerful springboard to support learning in the classroom.

Teachers are described by many as ‘professional question-askers’ and the use of questioning in the teaching and learning process dates back to one of the most influential users and developers of questions, the Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates believed that by asking questions we encourage reflection, and that their use is most effective when we create a continual loop of dialogue between the asker and the receiver, to allow movement from surface to deeper level thinking. Powerful Questioning takes inspiration from this, providing original theory that relates back to the historical use of questioning in the classroom throughout.

Offering a fresh perspective on how questioning can be engineered to support effective learning, Powerful Questioning examines the reasons behind the questions we ask and reveals the power of asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time. It details a set of core principles, recommendations and classroom-based practical examples that can be used to implement powerful questioning both in the classroom and wider school.

Michael’s aim is to help teachers become research-informed on the theories around the use of questioning in the classroom, whilst also providing a wide range of practical classroom-based strategies. Readers will take away specific examples from a broad range of case studies in which teachers at different phases of education (from Key Stages one to five) share how they use questioning to improve learning and retention.

Essential reading for all teachers and school leaders.

Picture for author Michael Chiles

Michael Chiles

An experienced school leader and principal examiner, Michael Chiles has been teaching for over 15 years. He has delivered training both nationally and internationally, supporting teachers in their approaches to implementing effective assessment and feedback practices. Currently a Vice Principal, he writes blogs at GeogHod, sits on the Chartered College of Teaching Council and enjoys walking in the British countryside with his Border Collie. He is also the author of CRAFT and The Feedback Pendulum.


  1. Effective questioning techniques and strategies to promote deep thinking are crucial aspects of an effective teacher’s classroom toolkit. In this book, Michael Chiles provides a plethora of examples underpinned by research to elicit our own deep thinking of how and why we ask questions in our classrooms. Within each chapter there are multiple reflection tasks and related activities for readers to complete, making this book not just something to read but, more importantly, something to practise. A superb addition to any classroom teacher's pedagogical bookcase.

  2. Powerful Questioning is going to prove a potent tool to every teacher who reads it. Chiles brilliantly marshals research and practical strategies to unpick the subtle but crucial art of questioning in the classroom. It can be too easy to take questioning for granted, so common is it to the classroom, but for even experienced teachers, it can prove a tricky aspect of teaching to improve. This book offers a wealth of useful reflection, along with activities and insights, to propel teachers’ questioning skills towards expert levels.

  3. Teachers ask hundreds of questions a day in their classrooms. But do we make the most of them? In this superbly researched and referenced book, Michael Chiles explores the purpose and untapped potential of questioning within classroom pedagogy, giving the reader powerful insight into this crucial element of effective teaching. As well as examining why questioning matters for responsive teaching, he carefully dissects the types of questioning we can use but also how questions can be used in formative assessment to check for understanding, diagnose and support pupil reflection. His approach is carefully interwoven with cognitive science and how questioning can support both deeper thinking and the long-term acquisition of knowledge and skills. He doesn’t duck the fact that both teachers and pupils can often find questioning hard; rather, he explores the reasons behind these challenges and offers practical and accessible strategies that can build classroom culture to allow powerful questioning to flourish and thrive. As with his previous books on assessment and feedback, this book is another gem – rooted in his own rich personal reflections and experience, his passion for teaching and his love of learning more about what makes the biggest difference in classrooms and to pupils’ success. A must-read for teachers and leaders in all settings.

  4. At the heart of every great lesson is questioning. Yet, for years, the CPD around questioning had been limited to simply ‘closed questions are bad’ and ‘open questions are good’. If we were lucky, then someone might even waft Bloom’s taxonomy to spice things up or the facilitator might get you to throw questions scrunched into paper balls or pass questions around on Post-it notes, because it was done once in an ‘Outstanding’ lesson. 

    Michael Chiles’ Powerful Questioning is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of how to effectively use questioning in the classroom. Rather than looking at fancy tricks, Chiles explores the creation, use, function and impact of questions in education. The narrow focus really helps you to refine and question your existing practice. As the title suggests, questioning can be powerful and we, as practitioners, need to explore and consider how we can make every interaction have an impact in the classroom.  

    A book that proves that you can teach an old dog, like me, a few tricks and, of course, there’s loads of stuff for new dogs, I mean teachers, too. 

  5. Questioning is possibly the most powerful lever teachers have in the classroom to drive learning. This book is an authoritative work not just on the research underpinning it but also on how to use it in practice. Highly recommended.

  6. One can’t help but marvel at how Michael has been able to weave important research with his classroom insight to make this book on questioning a valuable contribution to every teacher’s professional learning. ‘Questions are an integral part of our lives’, Michael asserts, and I tend to think this book will be an integral part of developing our essential question-asking skills in the classroom. 

  7. The best teachers ask lots of questions. But what are the most effective questions to ask? When and how should we ask them? And how can we shape our classroom environment so that students feel comfortable answering questions?

    In this impressive book, Michael Chiles provides compelling answers to these key questions and more. Powerful Questioning expertly deconstructs the art of questioning, offering highly practical advice for every classroom practitioner. 

  8. Some salutary statistics here on the range of questions currently asked in our classrooms and the massive opportunities for deepening pupils’ learning when we reconsider how to extract best value from them. Michael Chiles has written a terrific book to explain why and to show us how. An essential resource for CPD for every school.

  9. Michael Chiles states in Powerful Questioning, ‘of all the pedagogy strategies at the teacher’s disposal, questioning is one of the most dominant methods of instruction. It is the heartbeat of a classroom.’ I found this to be true in my years of working with cognitive scientists researching how children learn in a classroom. In my experience, questioning is fundamental in pursuing the powerful tools of retrieval, spacing, interleaving and metacognition, all rooted in robust research. Understanding how we learn and using the proper questioning techniques that develop critical thinking assists the teacher in promoting successful learning. John Hattie states in the introduction, ‘The hard part is asking the right question at the right time for the right purpose and with the right level of complexity.’ Michael Chiles gives us the knowledge and techniques that will make our use of questioning most effective.

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