Archive for the ‘ Questioning ’ Category

An Approach for Developing and Implementing Questioning Techniques

Looking for an introductory post on questioning? See this post!

I recently came upon this resource for questioning: Be sure to take a gander, as I found it to be valuable in providing me with some guidance in being effective in questioning.

To summarize some of the strategies outlined in this resource…

  • Ask Divergent Questions: Divergent question’s have many possible answers. For example, “What are some possible ways to solve the problem of poverty?”
  • Promote discussion amongst students: Paraphrase and draw in other students.
  • Wait 6 to 8 seconds before calling on a student for a response.
  • “Spontaneous questions that come up during class time are helpful but questions that are thinking skill-builders usually require more thoughtful pre- planning and structuring.”
  • Paraphrase answers back to students.

Free images from 

So how do we translate this summary into an actionable process? Well, I’ve deducted some steps from my own experience as a teacher. Read on for the steps and a personal example.

Step 1: Identify When to Create Questions and for what Learning Tasks

As mentioned in the resource, “questions that are thinking skill builders usually require more thoughtful pre-planning and structuring.” When should you create the questions that will encourage your students to think deeply? Typically this is done when the lesson plans are created in the curriculum development process. Were you handed lesson plans? Update it with questioning techniques where appropriate.

Looking at the lesson plan, the educator decides upon the types of questions to ask for particular learning tasks. For example, a divergent question may not be ideal for the knowledge stage of Bloom’s Taxonomy (discussed here previously) for a course concept. Sometimes questions may come naturally to the educator outside of the lesson plan. This is wonderful and organic as it draws from the educator’s experience with timing. See the other post for question ques for different levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Step 2: Pose your questions in Class

Following your lesson plan (feel free to be organic), pose your question. As per the advice of the article, wait 6 to 8 seconds before calling on a student to respond. This allows them time to identify what you are asking, and to gather their thoughts. The silence can be difficult for an educator. I often feel the urge to provide a number of “correct” answers. However, after waiting 6 to 8 seconds, I now say, “Any guesses?” or “There isn’t a wrong answer!” I find that this has been quite successful with my learners as then there is less anxiety in participating.

Step 3: Promote Discussion amongst your Students

Once a student has piped up, draw other students into the discussion. You can for instance ask another student, “What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what __________ is saying?” Then further probe. Ensure that once students have answered, that you demonstrate that you’ve understood them by paraphrasing what they have said. This is especially important as validation is a key characteristic to adult learners (discussed previously in this post).

Step 4: Review

For more involved questions, you may review all the input students have provided. This aids with retention, and also gives a complete picture of what was discussed. This review could be led by students if you wish to incorporate active learning.

An Example of the Approach

I’ve used this approach to create divergent questions as I typically am more organic and impulsive with questions on the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I first went through my lesson plans and identified learning tasks where divergent questions would be appropriate. For instance, in online surveys (the subject matter of my classes), students have the ability to allow respondents to go back to previous questions. Alternatively, they may decide to not allow this at all. I write in my lesson plan to pose the question: “Would you allow respondents to go back to previous questions in your survey?” There isn’t truly a wrong answer to this question.

Students typically answer this question in three ways: 1) No, I wouldn’t allow it, and 2) Yes, I would allow it, and 3) I would allow it for only some questions. For whichever answer a student chooses, I would then encourage the discussion and ask why. I would then ask if there was a student that thought otherwise and their reasoning.

If there isn’t a student that identifies an alternative perspective, I may introduce one and fuel the discussion. For instance, let’s say a student answered my question with, “Yes. you should allow the to go back and change their answer in a previous question on the survey…because what if they made a mistake. This would give you more accurate data because they can correct it.” If other students do not disagree, I may play devil’s advocate and say, “But what if they change their answer to avoid answering MORE survey questions because they figured out the survey logic for skipping. Would “No” be better for accurate data?” This discussion can go on for awhile as there are many benefits and challenges with each possible answer.

At the end of this activity, I then conduct a review. I prefer that students lead this. I divide students up in groups to represent one of the possible answers to the divergent question and ask each camp to summarize what it is we have discovered with each possible answer.


Questioning Techniques – Purpose and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Why use Questioning in the Classroom?

Guy Claxton, Professor in Education and Director of CLIO Development University of Bristol (source: states that…

[q]uestioning enables teachers to check learners’ understanding. It also benefits learners as itencourages engagement and focuses their thinking on key concepts and ideas.

I agree with what Claxton is saying. Think back to being a student. What provoked you to think about something in a deeper way? When an educator asked questions, or when  he/she who lectured and made statements? It’s likely the former. As well, I find that by using questioning techniques, it makes for a more interactive class. No longer is the educator at the front of the room talking and filling the heads of students like a vessel.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Questioning Techniques

Bloom’s Taxonomy can provide you with guidance for the types of questions you can ask your students.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a pyramid that illustrates the levels of learning and thinking. Educators aim for higher levels of learning and thinking in their students, however, one should note that levels of learning and thinking at the bottom of the pyramid need to be present before students can move up the pyramid.

The table from the University of Victoria Counselling Services webpage ( gives a definition of each level and question cues.

If you’re more of an audiovisual learner, please check out this video:

To summarize these two sources, see the table below. I’ve also added examples to each.



Question Cue

Knowledge At this level, students are asked to recall factual information in an objective manner.For example, “List the document types that you can create in Google Docs.” list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.
Comprehension At this level, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the information. This may include interpreting facts, predict consequences, and translate knowledge into new context.For example, “Differentiate between Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables in Google Docs.” summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
Application At this levels, students are asked to use information, methods, concepts, theories in new situations. They may also be asked to solve problems.For example, “Relate the Two Factor motivational theory for job satisfaction to the educational setting.” apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover
Analysis At this level, students use information to identify patterns or components, recognize hidden meanings, and organize part.For example, “Explain what the sample cross tabulation report is showing.” analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer
Synthesis At this level, students use old ideas to create new ones, generalize from given facts, relate knowledge from several areas, and draw conclusions.For example, “Prepare a plan of how you will use the software tool to support your business process.” combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
Evaluation At this level, students assess values of theories, makes choices based on reasoned argument, recognize subjectivity. The use of critical thinking is essential here.For example, “Recommend a solution for the business based on your assessment of related theories.” assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize

From the table, as students are close to the top of the pyramid, they are move involved with knowledge and information.  However, there is value in questions at the lower level of the pyramid. They can help students build familiarity with course concepts before they move into synthesis and evaluation. There is an appropriate time for questions in each level in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

For example, if I as an educator have just introduced a new theory, I would not ask students to rank this theory against others (Evaluation) without ensuring that students comprehend the theory and others first.

For more posts about Questioning Techniques, click the Questioning Techniques category  in the sidebar.

Using Multiple Instructional Strategies to enhance Critical Thinking

An instructional strategy for critical thinking would involve the elements discussed in the table in the last post. You will likely find that many instructional strategies incorporate critical thinking.Consider the strategies found here:

You may even combine instructional strategies for a single activity to maximize the use of critical thinking.

For example,

  1. pose a multi-logical question to the class.
  2. Ask students to start a journal entry and to jot down their initial stance. You may even ask them to incorporate a statement related to reflective self-criticism.
  3. Place students in groups and have them research articles, academic journals, and other information sources on the subject matter. Give them time outside of class to conduct this task. Ask them to find articles that opposes and supports their stance.
  4. Ask students to trade articles with one another group and have them go through an activity of analyzing bias in the information sources. You may even provide them with a worksheet like this one to help with the activity:
  5. In their groups, ask students to discuss the many perspectives and what sources support or oppose the views. Encourage Socratic questioning, and reasoning emphatically.
  6. Ask students to write a follow-up journal entry about their stance after being exposed to more information and after the group activity. Also ask them how their perspective has changed whether it has grown stronger or weaker and why. Ask them to document their thought process during the activity.

This activity incorporates the following instructional strategies:  discussion, Group work (collaborative learning), and journaling.

It also satisfy the criteria of critical thinking discussed in the last post:

  • Socratic Questioning: Present in groupwork where students are asked to discuss and probe the differing perspectives.
  • Co-operative Learning: Groupwork!
  • Multi-logical issues: The question posed at the beginning of the activity.
  • Reasoned Judgement: In the journaling activity and can also be expected in the groupwork.
  • Reflective Self-Criticism: Present in the journaling activity.
  • Recognizing Bias in Media: Present where information sources are analyzed for credibility.
  • Reasoning Empathetically: Present in groupwork.

If you may have noticed, these activities also promote active learning and contain elements of intrinsic motivation (Mastery, Purpose, and Autonomy).

Want to learn more about journaling? Check out this digital presentation created by one of my classmates:

by: Richard1.Leach

The Jigsaw Method discussed earlier also has the ability to satisfy the factors for critical thinking! As an educator we would need to pose a multi-logical question for the activity, and to provide each expert group with different perspectives to be researched. In their expert groups, students would analyze their sources for bias. When in the Jigsaw Groups, students would engage in Socratic questioning, Reasoned Judgement, and Reasoning Empathetically.

Click on the Critical Thinking category in the sidebar for more posts about this topic!