Effective Questioning

Questioning when I’m coaching is something which I haven’t taken the time to reflect on and discuss the importance, however thinking about myself as a coach as to whether I question my players to gain understanding of the task is one which I don’t do enough of. I hardly ask questions when I’m coaching and if I do its the ‘does everybody understand?’ ones. Thinking deeper into this, are the players of 10/11 years of age really going to stand up and say in front of all their team mates that they don’t understand? They will just carry on and struggle to progress and improve. Having discussed at university the ‘typical’ sayings that coaches shout to players such as ‘get goal side’ or ‘watch your offsides’ to an under 10s team allowed me to really think what I as a coach say in training and on the sidelines to allow learning to take place. The questions which I currently say paint a clear picture in the sense that there is no real learning taking place and understanding of the activity present.

Having read some research around effective questioning and the best possible questions to use, I have come to the conclusion that there is no specific right and wrong questions to ask. However, there are two types of effective questioning, lower order and higher order questions. Andy Grant from SportsCoachUK states that ‘Low-order questions require simple thinking to generate a response’ (Grant, 1970) relating to my own questioning as a coach. The top coaches and ones which get the best out of their athletes and the level in which I need to strive towards ask higher order questioning that ‘requires students to think at a deeper level and to elaborate on’ (Peterson and Taylor, 2012). In order to gain a better understanding and improvement fro0m my players I need to start thinking about asking higher order questions and move away from the broad type ones. Not only will I progress further as a coach and see an improvement in my team because of the level of learning happening, I will also see a vast improvement from individuals’ performance and ability to carry out the task/competition more successfully due to the level of learning taking place.

This can also be related to Blooms Taxonomy. In the photo below,there are 6 categories which make up his theory. The areas which I as a coach need to  start hitting to become a more learning based style coach is the Analyzing, Evaluating and Creating phases. I already focus on the Remembering, Understanding and Applying stages but this isn’t enough to allow a real sense of in depth learning and understanding to take place. Using Blooms Taxonomy can allow me as a coach to differentiate between cognitive skill level to meet objective set before the session and will therefore lead to ‘deeper learning and transfer of knowledge and skills to a greater variety of tasks and contexts’ (Adams, 2015).

During our class discussion at university we analyzed the difference between instructing vs coaching and which area we as individual coaches fall into. This made me reflect more upon my coaching and from my own experiences I feel I am moving away from an instructor and placing more ownership on my players to generate more in-depth learning. For this to continuously happen, however, I need to embed higher order questions into my coaching. This links in with the discussion we had in class. The picture below shows what we as a class came up with regarding instructor vs coach and put my coaching into perspective.


There is clearly many differences between the two areas and I feel I fall into them both. The questions I use when I’m coaching fall into the instructor category in the sense they are very much ‘black and white’ and generate a real ‘lack of understanding’ for my players. However, where I do feel my strengths as a coach lie and what makes me fall into the coach category is that I am very flexible and adaptable. If a session is not working then I can quickly adapt to make the session work and allow understanding to take place. I also accept different approaches as stated in the coach column of the photograph. I have experimented with the Whole Part Whole method of coaching, as well as Linear vs Non Linear Pedagogy and Athlete Centered Approach rather than a coaching centered approach. All the methods which I have trialed with my team have allowed me to accept new ideas and ways in which to coach to suit my players understanding. However, I feel reflecting upon myself as a coach, to enable me to fully improve I need to be able to ask higher order questions to generate critical learning which focuses on decision making, problem solving and ownership.

I also believe that coaches don’t coach and teach players, they give advice and help performers on their way to be successful. They are there to generate ideas and promote critical learning and bounce ideas off, rather than telling players what they should and shouldn’t do and how they should play. I found a really useful article by Elizabeth Milner (link: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=6&sid=4b8fc64c-3055-445d-ae5d-4b2f8657852e%40sessionmgr198&hid=122) which focuses on higher order thinking and generates ideas on how to use this to the best of its ability. What I found really interesting is that ‘Flipping the mentality of teaching, instead of the teacher being the sole instructor, have students take ownership of their education and have them teach using the teacher as a resource’ (Milner, 2014) as this allows them to ‘understand what they are learning and why it is relevant to their lives’ (Milner, 2014). If I can embed this into my coaching, I will be allowing a more in depth environment for effective learning to take place and not only will the players be learning about the sport, they will also be discussing WHY it is important to them as individuals not only on the pitch but in their everyday lives.



Reference List:

Grant, A. (1970) Let’s play 20 questions: Top tips for using questions for Athlete-Centred coaching. Available at: http://www.sportscoachuk.org/blog/let%E2%80%99s-play-20-questions-top-tips-using-questions-athlete-centred-coaching#.UiZBHzi-U8g.twitter (Accessed: 17 March 2016).

Peterson, D.S. and Taylor, B.M. (2012) ‘Using higher order questioning to accelerate Students’ growth in reading’, The Reading Teacher, 65(5), pp. 295–304.

Milner, E. (2014) ‘Higher Order Thinking’, COAHPERD Journal, 40(3), p. 7.

Adams, N.E. (2015) ‘Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives’, Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 103(3), pp. 152–153.


One thought on “Effective Questioning

  1. Great stuff, Sam. If there was a continuum from pure instructor (0) to pure coach (10), where would you put yourself 12 months ago, currently, and where you could be in 12 months time?

    How else might you encourage higher order thinking in your sessions other than through asking questions?

    Also, I really like your plan to try and get students to take ownership of their education – do you forsee any potential difficulties doing this with the kids you currently coach? How might you navigate around or try to minimise them?


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