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Probing Questions

Questions serve a variety of purposes:

  • They can be used to ascertain what students know prior to tutoring.
  • They can be used to determine if students have learned what has been taught.
  • They can be used to gain attention.
  • They provide variation while teaching/ tutoring.
  • They can be directed at problem students to get the student back on task.
  • They cause students to think analytically and critically.
  • Asking questions while tutoring is a desirable behavior.

Levels of Questions: Questions are typically divided into two levels: Higher Order and Lower Order. The higher order questions call for responses from students that require synthesis, analysis and evaluation. Lower order questions require students to provide answers that demonstrate basic knowledge and comprehension.

  • It is desirable to ask both higher order and lower order questions. Research has shown tutors tend to ask only lower order questions. Adding higher level questions will increase the effectiveness of your work and encourage the tutee to be a “Critical Thinker.”
  • A probing question is one in which the tutor asks the student to provide additional information, clarify a response, or justify an answer. Tutors should get into the practice of asking probing questions as this causes students to develop higher order thinking skills. Even if a student response to a question is correct, it is appropriate to follow-up with a probing question.