Hinge Questions

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Questioning.

What is it and how does it work?

A Hinge Question is a key check for understanding at a ‘hinge-point’ of a lesson. The name derives from two linked meanings as explained by Harry Fletcher-Wood in his blog about this topic:

  • It is the point you would move from one key idea, activity or point to another.
  • If understanding the content before the hinge-point is a prerequisite for the next chunk of learning.

They are useful in judging whether students are at the right point in their learning to move on to more challenging work, or if they need more time to master the current concept. The video clip below is an overview and introduction to hinge-point questions provided by Prof. Dylan Wiliam:

Designing a Hinge Question

Good Hinge Questions should:

  • Be quick and easy to ask.
  • Be quick for students to respond to (Multiple Choice Questions are popular) – within about a minute or two.
  • Be constructed in such a way that a correct answer will only be achieved if you really understand the point.
  • Be constructed in such a way that wrong answers signal which sort of misconceptions may be pervading the room.

There is therefore an art to it to some degree! Particularly to satisfy points 3 and 4.

To understand this better take this example from the topic of Convection and Heat Transfer in Science. You’re aiming to check if the class understand the key concept of a convection current before applying it to other real-world contexts.


The hot air balloon moves upwards because:

  • A) Heat rises
  • B) Hot air is lighter than cold air so floats upwards
  • C) Hot air is less dense than cold air and so floats upwards
  • D) Hot air particles are lighter than cold air particles and so lift the balloon upwards

The teacher will know that if the class have properly understood the concept (and any previous explanations, modelling or demonstrations) they would give the correct response as C. This could be done as a mini-whiteboard task, or a unison Call and Response question. All of the others reveal a misconception, D for example could suggest to the teacher they need a reminder about aspects of particle theory.

Hinge questions do not suggest a student has mastered a whole topic, but they do help uncover whether they have understood key principles of topics, and that is what they are best used for.

Harry has added another page on his website to act as a Hinge Question Hub – where he has collated posts on the topic and a selection of links to websites where teachers have freely shared their Hinge Questions for a range of subjects. Google searches will also throw up a number of examples too as it has proven to be popular strategy over recent years.

Associated further reading and references:

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