How to: Generate higher order questions

View all subject updates

There are many reasons we ask questions. As teachers we ask questions to pique interest, review prior knowledge and check understanding, yet research has shown teachers ask over 95% of questions in the classroom suggesting that, although full of questions, classrooms often lack student-based enquiry.

Encounter Live expert interviews and Q&A sessions provide a unique opportunity for students to indulge their curiosity and pick the brains of experts on a whole range of subjects. This can then give rise to discovery and learning you don’t come across every day.

To really get the most out of these Encounter Live sessions, we have created a guide to support you and your students in selecting and developing higher order questions, which spark engaging and informative discussions and encourage critical reflection.

Preparation

  • Give students as much time as possible to think about their questions. This will involve planning and preparation ahead of time.
  • Ensure students know the purpose of their questioning. Are they trying to gain factual information or find out someone’s opinion?
  • Build on students’ prior knowledge and expertise. Do they have enough background information and experience? Ensure students have had enough exposure to the subject matter and relate it to their personal experiences.
  • Promote wonderment, by ensuring students are free to wonder and not restricted by a requirement to investigate.

Generating questions

  • Explain the difference between open and closed questions. Students will want to get as much air time for their questions as possible, so encourage them to construct open questions.
  • Remind them that there’s no such thing as a silly question. Some of the most interesting discussions come from weird and wonderful questions that might have initially seemed silly. Our teams love answering these questions and they give rise to unique learning opportunities.
  • Model higher order questions.
  • Don’t let students be put off by communication difficulties. These shouldn’t be a barrier to asking interesting and inquiring questions. You can scribe questions for them.
  • Use visual aids such as mind mapping to organise questions into categories. Mind map all the questions on an interactive whiteboard and then ask students to identify questions which are asking the same thing. Move these questions together under a heading or category. They can then summarise the category into one or two higher order questions.
  • Question stems can help students formulate questions from an initial idea. Normally questions are higher order as you move along these question words: What?, Where?, Who?, Why?, and How?; and then these verbs: Is…, Did…, Can…, Will…, and Might…
  • This means that a question such as 'What is the deepest point in the ocean?' is considered a lower order question, compared to 'How might the deep ocean change in the future?'.

Refining questions

  • Peer collaboration encourages discussion and reflection as well as critical and purposeful questioning.
  • Deeper thinking, if the initial question posed is fairly low order, ask students to clarify what they mean and draw out deeper thinking; simply asking ‘What do you eat?’ can develop into ‘Are there foods you can’t get in the Arctic?’, ‘How do you store food and cook on the base?’ or ‘What food from home do you miss?’.
  • Ask students to categorise or score their questions then select the best ones.
  • Non-googleable questions; use peer collaboration to develop the question into a non-google-able question so ‘How big is the biggest shark?’ becomes ‘What is the biggest shark you’ve interacted with and what happened?’.
  • Follow general questions with a specific one ‘What’s the weather like there? What clothing is essential for working in that environment?’.
  • Narrowing questions; ‘How is the Arctic affected by global warming?’ becomes ‘What effects of global warming have you witnessed? What do you think is causing this?’.
  • To condense the questions further, students can vote for their favourite questions. Encourage blind voting or state that students can’t vote for their own question to encourage critical thinking and reflection.
Code Smart Computing 7 11 Thumb

Computing | Ages 7 - 11

Code Smart

Code Smart is a computing and robotics education programme based on driverless car technologies. Code Smart takes students on a journey from complete beginners to code creators.

Our Ocean Planet Science Geography 7 11 Thumb

Science / Geography | Ages 7 - 11

Our Ocean Planet

Our Ocean Planet takes students on a voyage round the world. Starting with Britain's surrounding seas, students will study the diversity and importance of the oceans from the Arctic to the Southern Ocean.

Oceans For Beginners 7 11 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 7 - 11

Oceans for beginners

Oceans for beginners is a three-part unit of work designed to provide all the contextual information students need before commencing Ocean Plastics 7-11.

Ocean Plastics 7 11 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 7 - 11

Ocean Plastics

This unique scheme of work for Key Stage 2 introduces students to ocean plastics and inspires them to enact change in their communities.

Coral Oceans Science 7 11 Thumb

Science | Ages 7 - 11

Coral Oceans

These resources for ages 7-11 are based on the journeys undertaken by science teams taking part in the XL Catlin Seaview Survey expeditions. These resources present a complete scheme of work for the science classroom, covering core science and sustainability curriculum areas as well as enhancing students' creative and communications skills.

Frozen Oceans 7 11 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 7 - 11

Frozen Oceans

Based on journeys undertaken by real explorers and scientists, the Frozen Oceans (Primary) education programme is designed to introduce students to what life is like in the High Arctic.

Coral Oceans Geography 14 16 Thumb

Geography | Ages 14 - 16

Coral Oceans

This unique scheme of work for GCSE Geography uses research carried out by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey expedition team in Timor-Leste and focuses on the interrelationship between humans and coral reefs.

Coral Oceans Science 11 14 Thumb

Science | Ages 11 - 14

Coral Oceans

These resources for ages 11-14 are based on the journeys undertaken by science teams taking part in the XL Catlin Seaview Survey expeditions. Starting with the Great Barrier Reef in 2012, these expeditions seek to create a baseline survey of the world's reefs as well as more in-depth research on the deep reef lying between 30m and 100m.

Coral Oceans Science 14 16 Thumb

Science | Ages 14 - 16

Coral Oceans

This Coral Oceans GCSE Science unit of work challenges students to think about the impact they have on coral reefs as they study their importance, the consequences of threats and how to protect them. The cumulative approach to this unit means students will develop skills throughout to complete a decision-making exercise in the last lesson.

Oceans For Beginners 14 16 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 14 - 16

Oceans for beginners

Oceans for beginners is a three-part unit of work designed to provide all the contextual information students need before commencing Ocean Plastics 14-16.

Plankton Plastics Poo Science 14 16 Thumb

Science | Ages 14 - 16

Plankton, Plastics and Poo

Plankton, Plastics and Poo for GCSE Science introduces students to the pioneering research on the impact of microplastics on the marine ecosystem. This resource brings cutting edge science to the classroom.

Frozen Oceans Science 11 14 Thumb

Science | Ages 11 - 14

Frozen Oceans

The Frozen Oceans Science resources introduce working scientifically concepts and skills to 11-14-year-olds through enquiry-based lessons which replicate work done by field scientists in the Arctic.

Frozen Oceans Science 14 16 Thumb

Science | Ages 14 - 16

Frozen Oceans

This Frozen Oceans unit outlines the research carried out by the Catlin Arctic Surveys and can be used in teaching the carbon cycle, ocean acidification and its impact on the Arctic ecosystem.

Submarine Stem Sci 7 11 Thumb

Science | Ages 7 - 11

Submarine STEM

This unique scheme of work for Key Stage 2 combines science and design technology to discover the wonders of deep-sea exploration through a series of stimulating and immersive lessons.

Google Expeditions Science 11 16 Thumb

Science | Ages 11 - 14, 14 - 16

Google Expeditions

These lessons use Google Expeditions to develop knowledge of the Respiratory System, The Auditory System and The Heart. These lessons can be taught as a unit or in conjunction with other lessons. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Google Expeditions Geography 11 16 Thumb

Geography | Ages 11 - 14, 14 - 16

Google Expeditions

These lessons use Google Expeditions to develop key geographical skills. They include four lessons on biomes and studies of different environments and methods environmental conservation in these different environments. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Google Expeditions English 11 16 Thumb

English | Ages 11 - 14, 14 - 16

Google Expeditions

This unit can be taught as a whole unit or in conjunction with other lessons. These lessons will use Google Expeditions to look at a variety of resources such as Gothic Literature and Syrian refugees which will create a new context student’s can use as inspiration and a basis to develop their a variety of skills. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Google Expeditions Modern Languages 14 16 Thumb

Modern languages | Ages 14 - 16, 16+

Google Expedition

These lessons use Google Expeditions to develop key skills to be successful when communicating in French, whether that be written or verbal communication. These lessons can be taught in conjunction with other units of work or as stand-alone lessons. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Google Expeditions Geography 7 11 Thumb

Geography | Ages 7 - 11

Google Expeditions

These lessons use Google Expeditions to explore a number of different themes covering human and physical geography. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Google Expeditions Maths 5 11 Thumb

Maths | Ages 5 - 7, 7 - 11

Google Expeditions

These lessons use Google Expeditions to develop their knowledge of key mathematical concepts; ratios, angles, fractions and pictograms. They will use these experiences to learn how to how to record and present information accurately. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Google Expeditions Science 7 11 Thumb

Science | Ages 7 - 11

Google Expeditions

These lessons use Google Expeditions to develop knowledge of friction, gravity and life on the International Space Station. Google Expeditions are immersive 360 degree photo stories designed for use in the classroom. More information can be found here.

Code Smart Computing 11 14 Thumb

Computing | Ages 11 - 14

Code Smart

Code Smart is a computing and robotics education programme based on driverless car technologies. Students will develop their ability to code as well as their design thinking as they tackle smart city challenges.

Oceans For Beginners 11 14 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 11 - 14

Oceans for beginners

Oceans for beginners is a three-part unit of work designed to provide all the contextual information students need before commencing Ocean Plastics 11-14.

Submarine Stem Sci 11 14 Thumb

Science | Ages 11 - 14

Submarine STEM

Submarine STEM challenges students to consider aspects of submarine design. Each lesson contains a practical investigation examining the scientific principles involved in exploring the deep ocean.

Oceans For Beginners 5 7 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 5 - 7

Oceans for beginners

Oceans for beginners is a three-part unit of work designed to provide all the contextual information students need before commencing Ocean Plastics 5-7.

Ocean Plasticss 5 7 Thumb

X-Curric | Ages 5 - 7

Ocean Plastics

This unique scheme of work for Key Stage 1 introduces students to materials and their properties and explores what happens to our plastic rubbish.

Frozen Oceans Geography 11 14 Thumb

Geography | Ages 11 - 14

Frozen Oceans

The Frozen Oceans Geography resources are designed to take 11-14-year-olds on a journey to the Arctic following the expedition team on the 2011 Catlin Arctic Survey.

Frozen Oceans Geography 14 16 Thumb

Geography | Ages 14 - 16

Frozen Oceans

This Frozen Oceans education resource includes two data case studies that introduce students to ocean acidification and sea ice thickness. The core of each case study is a data set from real expeditions.

Mvms Citizenship English 9 12 Thumb

Citizenship / English | Ages 7 - 11, 11 - 14

My Voice-My School

My Voice-My school gives students the opportunity to share their ideas about education and their future. The project is grounded in the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, with a focus on Goal 4 Quality Education. These lesson plans and resources for ages 9-12 are based on video conversations between schools.

Mvms Citizenship English 11 16 Thumb

Citizenship / English | Ages 11 - 14, 14 - 16

My Voice-My School

My Voice-My School focuses on the topic of quality education as enshrined in the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Connecting UNRWA's schools with partner schools overseas, the project seeks to stimulate student conversation about quality education and what individuals and communities can do to help make it a reality for all.

activity age bookmark-fill icon bookmark boy-girl calendar chevron-down icon close icon compass cross icon download encounter-live facebook gallery icon instagram icon Instagram icon linkedin links icon location mail icon map next play previous professional-development right-arrow icon search share single image social-media speaker spinner icon students subject-update teacher-resources tick icon time twitter user video-lesson video youtube