Asking the right question

propose to add to the educational literature on conditions for good learning

Team Members :  Christine Sinclair, Paul Anderson, Hamish Macleod, Jessie Paterson, Anna Wood


Academics and their students sometimes talk at cross-purposes. The aim of this project is to explore how we can support both university teachers and their students in recognising and alleviating this problem. We propose that effective dialogues are key to academic success, with the ‘good question’ being an essential feature of both teaching and learning. Opportunities to ask the right questions emerge from appropriate dialogic settings, events and activities. As well as identifying the conditions for questioning, we propose to seek out heuristics that will promote it and avoid barriers to dialogue. We shall use actual educational events and subsequent dialogues about them to explore the problem.

We shall undertake this in three different contexts in the University of Edinburgh: Education, Informatics, and Veterinary Medicine. We anticipate finding similar features as well as contextualised variations. By analysing successful and unsuccessful questions, we propose to add to the educational literature on conditions for good learning, and on reducing barriers from cultural, disciplinary, technological or psychological factors. Our aim is to boost practical strategies for teachers and students to improve their questioning techniques.

Final project report

Download the final project report (PDF)

Other project outcomes

Summary of project findings (PDF)

Thematic map - students (PDF)

Thematic map - teachers (PDF)

Teaching Matters blog post 

Project website