Induction session 8.6 - Faculty of Education Workshop May 2014

From OER in Education

Workshop: OER4Schools - Developing innovative mathematics and science teaching in sub-Saharan Africa

Please bring a laptop, tablet, etc. We will access the OER4Schools resource online, or use our OER4Schools memory sticks with the offline resource.

This is a trial session for our OER4Schools programme. We are doing a few activities together (such as cumulative talk, questioning, project-based learning) which are drawn from our programme.
Learning intentions and objectives.
The learning intention is for participants to get a good practical overview of the OER4Schools programme, and to evaluate whether the programme could be useful for their sessions.

Success criteria.
Success criteria are:

  • Participants are able to select one or more activities and sessions that are useful for them.
  • Participants are able to evaluate how the programme fits into their own education planning.

ICT components.
Participants have been asked to bring laptops and tablets (where available) so that they are able to browse the resource during the session.

Resources needed.

Overhead projector, paper, pens.

Note that to keep heading numbers simple, we are going to continue with top level headings, rather than creating sub-sections of section 3.

Welcome to the workshop

Activity icon.png Introduction to the workshop (15 min). Let's go round and hear from each other. What are our backgrounds, and what are we interested in? What do we want to get out of this workshop? Let's appoint two scribes, and take notes. Let's share contact details.

Introducing cumulative talk - creating a story together

Educator note

Cumulative talk is talk in which all participants agree and add to the previous talk (or sentence).

Activity icon.png Cumulative talk (20 min): Creating a story together. All the participants get up to rearrange the seating. Arrange the group in a horseshoe seating arrangement(a) if there is room. If not, choose another arrangement allowing participants to see each other. Facilitator starts a story by saying one sentence. All participants then contribute to the story by adding sentences.

A good story would:

  • be contextually appropriate: for example, use common names of characters and a setting familiar to participants
  • have a theme relevant for participants such as education (girl-child receiving schooling later supports family), importance of forests and wildlife (saving a snake later becomes useful for the invention of new medicine), treatment of diseases (steps taken by a family to treat an ill person) etc.
  • be short and have few characters, and
  • have a problem which is collectively resolved in the end

For instance, you could create a story about welcoming a new child to the school, perhaps a child with an impairment of some kind. The facilitator starts by saying: "The other day, I heard my neighbours talking about whether their child should be starting school, because their child has difficulty walking, and they were not sure whether children like that should go to school." (Relates to Index for Inclusion, A1.1 Everyone is welcomed.)

Educator note

Facilitator can introduce the notion of Talk Rules during this activity, if needed. Some examples are:

  • “everybody listens when one person talks” because they have to add to what has previously been said
  • “respect others’ ideas” by adding to their idea, rather than changing it
  • “make sure everyone in the group understands”
  • “try to reach consensus in the end” (participants don’t need to actually come to agreement, but the process of trying gets people to listen to each other)

You may want to ask participants to generate their own examples of Talk Rules.

The activity we just did is an example of “cumulative talk”, where participants build on what the previous person has said (“cumulative talk” is one way of moving towards whole class dialogue).

Introduction to questioning

Questioning, offering opportunities for classroom talk, and listening to learner responses are an essential part of interactive teaching. They help teachers to determine:

  • what learners understand
  • what they misunderstand, and
  • what they are actually learning

Reflecting on current questioning practice

Question marks.jpg
Educator note

The idea behind this activity is to make the need for this session explicit.

You will need a piece of paper.

Choose some topics that participants are teaching this week (from the curriculum), and display the topics (on blackboard or flipchart). Some examples are:

Activity icon.png Same-task group work (5 min): in pairs: Coming up with some questions. Choose a topic from the paper. Using the paper, write a list of up to five questions that you normally ask/would ask the pupils in class.

Educator note

Allow only about 3-5 minutes for this activity so that spontaneous questions are recorded.

After 3-5 minutes, explain what open and closed questions are (see background reading below) and ask the whole group for a couple of example questions of each type, for illustration. Write these examples (no more than two of each question type) on the blackboard or flipchart for reference during the game, or ask a volunteer participant to do so. When you are sure that participants have got the idea of the differences between the question types, proceed with the game.

During the game, ensure that participants do not feel less motivated if they offer more closed or surface types of questions. To ensure this:

  • Refrain from judging questions. Record/discuss questions factually without expressing any emotion.
  • Mention that all types of questions have value and can be used for different purposes. Closed and surface questions are also important to some extent.
  • Maintain positive body language by listening attentively.

. To start the game, ask participants to look at the first question (on their respective lists), and work out whether it is open or closed, and then move to the corresponding side of the room. When participants have categorised their first question, take a few examples from each side of the room to clarify that they have been correctly categorised. Participants move on to the second question on their list and categorise it in the same way.


Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min): Facilitator talk on open and closed questions.

Activity icon.png Game (5 min): on open and closed questions. The facilitator will ask you to categorise the questions on your list (one at a time) as open or closed and to move to the corresponding side of the room. Work through your questions one at a time and categorise them as closed or open when asked to do so. . Be prepared to explain your rationale to the rest of the group.



Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (5 min): Reflecting on current practice. Where do you stand? Is your current practice of generating questions more open or more closed?

Reading about open and closed questions

Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min): Reading about open and closed questions.

Background reading

Closed versus Open questions:

  • Closed questions are factual and focus on a correct response. Some examples are: Name the different parts of a plant? What are the five nutrients that must be present in a balanced diet? How many sides does a triangle have? What is the formula for calculating the perimeter of a square? How many planets are there in the solar system? Name two sources of renewable energy.
  • Open questions have many answers. Some examples are: What could be the consequences of water contamination? How does a balanced diet help us? How could we use flowers of plants? Suggest ways to prevent the spread of malaria in your community?

Surface versus Deep questions:

  • Surface questions elicit one idea or some ideas. For example: What is the difference between an organic and inorganic fertilizer? What is the use of carbohydrates in a balanced diet? Which part of the sugar cane plant is used for eating? Which features of a cactus plant are useful for its survival in desert regions?
  • Deep questions elicit relations between ideas and extended ideas. For example: What would happen if only inorganic fertilizers are used for growing plants? What connections do you see between the climate of a region and its vegetation? Why is the water in the nearby pond not safe for drinking?

‘What if’ and ‘Why...' questions can help you delve deeper into pupils’ thinking.


Questions you can ask in class

  • Can you guess what will happen?
  • Can you give me an example? Can you find an (another) example?
  • How does (cause) relate to (event)? or How does this explain ...?
  • Is this the same as …? Is this different from ...?
  • Tell me something that is true about ...
  • What connections can you see between ...?
  • What always seems to happen?
  • What other ways are there to …?
  • What do you think is happening?
  • What would happen if ...?
  • What could be changed if we want...? What would you change so that ...?
  • What is wrong with ...?
  • What happens when ...?
  • What did you observe?
  • What do you think about ...?
  • What do you think about what X said? Why?
  • Why do you think that ...?
  • Can you explain that to your partner?
  • Can you group these?

Here are some questions classified using Bloom's taxonomy, in order of increasing demand:


  • What do you remember about ...?
  • How would you define ...?
  • How would you recognise ...?
  • What would you choose ...?
  • Describe what happens when ...?
  • How is ...?
  • Which one ...?
  • Why did ...?


  • How would you clarify the meaning ...?
  • How would you differentiate between ...?
  • What did you observe ...?
  • How would you identify ...?
  • What would happen if ...?
  • Can you give an example of ...?


  • How would you develop... to present ...?
  • What would be the result if ...?
  • How would you present ...?
  • How would you change ...?
  • Why does ... work?
  • Can you develop a set of instructions about ...?
  • What factors would you change if ...?


  • How can you classify ... according to ...?
  • How can you compare the different parts ...?
  • What explanation do you have for ...?
  • Discuss the pros and cons of ...?
  • What is the analysis of ...?
  • How is ... similar to ...?


  • What criteria could you use to assess ...?
  • What data was used to evaluate ...?
  • What choice would you have made ...?
  • What is the most important...?
  • How could you verify ...?
  • Is there a better solution to ...?
  • What do you think about ...?
  • Do you think this is a bad or a good thing?


  • What alternative would you suggest for ...?
  • What changes would you make to revise ...?
  • Predict the outcome if ...?
  • What could you invent ...?
  • How would you compile the facts for ...?
  • If you had access to all resources how would you deal with ...?
  • Compose a song about ...
  • Design a ... to ...

You can print this content on a separate sheet here: OER4Schools/Questions you can ask.

Browsing the OER4Schools resource

Activity icon.png Same-task group work (10 min): Browsing the OER4Schools resource. Now browse to and identify a topic that is useful or of interest to you. If you have brought a laptop (or another device to which you can connect a USB stick), you should also browse the offline version provided. The offline version contains all content from the, including all videos. There is a lot of content but, for now, focus on the OER4Schools resource. As you are browsing, make a note of what you find, and consider:

  • PMI: What do you think is a plus, what is a minus, what do you find interesting? Why?
  • How would you be able to use this resource for your own purposes?


Making a plan for the use of the resource

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): What did you find? We now discuss what you found. You should now have a good overview of the OER4Schools resource. OER4Schools is a complete programme, but you could also use parts of it. Is there overlap with your own activities? How might you be able to use OER4Schools? Or perhaps there is something that you can contribute?


Quick feedback

  • What did you find most valuable?
  • What suggestions do you have for the OER4Schools team?

Follow-up activities

Activity icon.png Agreeing follow-up activities (10 min). What activities are we envisaging following up from this workshop? When are we doing them? How do we feed back? Let's agree a few activities that we might be able to do.

Part 1: Activity 1.

Part 2: Activity 2.

Activity summary

Educator note

At the end of each session, we provide an overview of the activities in this session, together with their suggested timings. Although this appears at the end of the session (for technical reasons), you should keep an eye on this throughout the session, to make sure that you are pacing the workshop session appropriately!

Total time: 90 (min)

Activities in this session:

  • Introduction to the workshop(15 min).
  • Cumulative talk (20 min): Creating a story together.
  • Same-task group work (5 min): in pairs: Coming up with some questions.
  • Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min): Facilitator talk on open and closed questions.
  • Game (5 min): on open and closed questions.
  • Whole class dialogue (5 min): Reflecting on current practice.
  • Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min): Reading about open and closed questions.
  • Same-task group work (10 min): Browsing the OER4Schools resource.
  • Whole class dialogue (10 min): What did you find?
  • Agreeing follow-up activities(10 min).

If you have printed this session for offline use, you may also need to download the following assets: