Why the IRE Model of Questioning is Ineffective

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Unit 2 Introduction

The Initiate-Response-Evaluate (IRE) model of questioning is a traditional teacher lead question and answer session that is still widely used in classrooms despite its shortcomings.[1] This style of questioning does have some place in the classroom, it is a very effective way of checking for factual knowledge, or fact recall. However, this style of questioning really does not produce a lot of benefits with regards to higher order thinking. The IRE model is pretty much a verbal test with only one right answer. Even if a higher order question is posed, only one student gets to answer before the teacher evaluates the answer and ends any form of discussion. This lesson will demonstrate that this style of questioning should be used sparingly and teachers will understand why this style of classroom "discussion" is really not discussion at all. Before this course can move on to how effective questioning should be done, everyone must be able to recognize that their previous styles of questioning were not providing their students with the maximum possibilities of expanding their thinking ability and knowledge of the content.

Unit 2 Objectives

1) In a social studies classroom the student (classroom teacher) will be able to formulate a response that explains when it is appropriate to use the IRE model of questioning.

2) In a social studies classroom the student (classroom teacher) will be able to create an explanation that summarizes the drawbacks of the IRE model of questioning.


In our first unit we explored how discussion in general is great for interesting students and engaging them in the material which leads to better comprehension. Going along this note the second lesson illustrates how the Initiate-Response-Evaluate model of questioning does, in fact, not foster discussion. With this model the teacher asks a question, the student answers, and then the teacher says the answer is right or provides the correct answer. This is very effective if the goal is to quickly check for comprehension on a single fact or issue from a particular student. However, this style of questioning does not create a discussion! The teacher formulates a question, a single student answers, and then the teacher evaluates the answer. The first glaring problem is that except for the teacher and the one student called on the rest of the class is completely left out. There are no other questions from students, no comments, no other opinions. It involves only two people in the classroom and only one of those people is a student.

Another limitation of the Initiate-Response-Evaluate model is the idea that students are not really allowed to access their higher order thinking abilities. Even if the student is asked a higher order thinking question, they are only given a single chance to respond and the rest of the class does not have access to it. The student answering the question and the rest of the class look to the teacher after a student's response to see if they were right or wrong and what the correct answer is. However, with higher order thinking questions there should be more than one right answer just as long as the answer is backed by facts and logic. With the evaluation coming so quickly from the teacher it does not allow others to add on to the answer or comment. Also, the teacher does not provide any delving questions. The Center for Teaching Effectiveness highlights the importance of delving.[2] If a student gives a yes or no answer or briefly answers the question, it is imperative that the teacher delves and attempts to draw more out of the student. Also, if the student is "wrong" with their answer it is a necessary step to have the student explain their logic or reasoning. Often, the student will realize their mistake without the teacher directly telling them when the delving questions assist them in revealing where they made their mistake. Even if the revalation does not occur, then the student explaining their faulty reasoning and having the teacher or another student then correct it is a very effective way of removing that particular student's misconception and anyone else who had a similar one.

A final drawback to the Initiate-Response-Evaluate model is that the students view the teacher as the "decider" on what is the right answer on many questions that should have multiple right answers. In social studies there are often questions that leave the door open for interpretation, if the teacher evaluates every answer then their exists only one prevailing viewpoint on each issue. Students then believe their view is "wrong", even though they might have a valid argument that they can back up with facts. The bottom line is the fact that IRE does not create a classroom discussion, it creates a one on one quick interaction between a student and a teacher.


1) After reading the above mini-lecture and the additional websites referenced please go to the following page to participate in a discussion about the IRE model. Please read each other's responses and comment and evaluate what everyone else says as well as post your own original thoughts on the topic. IRE Shortcomings

2) The second activity is a formative assessment where you will quiz yourself on the positives and negatives of the IRE model. Please click the following link where you will have a list of descriptions and you will have to decide if they are positive or negative. On a seperate sheet of paper draw a T-Chart with IRE Positives on one side, and IRE Negatives on the other and add in the descriptions accordingly. Quiz on the IRE


Even though the IRE model of questioning does have a few specific uses in the classroom it should by no means be the major style of questioning in the classroom. The IRE model has several limitations revolving around the model's inability to promote discussion and thinking at higher levels. Now in the first unit we examined the benefits of classroom discussion in social studies, and this unit we discovered that the IRE model of questioning was not the way of achieving effective discussion, it is time to start looking at how to promote great classroom discussion. The next lesson will focus on how to create a great higher order thinking question that will challenge and engage students in social studies.

Go on to Unit 3 The Dynamics of a Great Higher Order Question

Return to Effective Social Studies Classroom Discussion