Questioning Techniques

The relationship between critical thinking and questioning

In reply to Doug’s question “What is the relationship between critical thinking and questioning?, I want to present this article entitled “The Role of Questions in Teaching, Thinking and Learning”. According to the author of this article, only questions can “engage thinking” therefore answers shouldn’t be taught separate from questions. In other words, instead of “feeding students endless content to remember (that is, declarative sentences to remember)” we should ask them questions. “Students need questions to turn on their intellectual engines and they need to generate questions from our questions to get their thinking to go somewhere.”

The author lists different types of questions (it would have been interested to get some examples with these categories of questions) and, for each of them, he explains what kind of thinking it triggers. Here are some examples:

  • Question of purpose force us to define our task.
  • Questions of interpretation force us to examine how we are organizing or giving meaning to information.
  • Questions of point of view force us to examine our point of view and to consider other relevant points of view.

I think it is interesting to keep in mind the different types of questions listed and to be aware of what” kind of thinking” we are trying to trigger every time we ask a question. Maybe we are more or less aware of it.

“Are There Any Questions?”

I think I could qualify this question, that we probably all ask, as a “dead question” according to the author’s classification of questions. In other words, it doesn’t trigger any thinking.

I think that by asking this question we are checking if somebody didn’t understand something among everything we just presented. That implies that we believe that we have presented all the information but maybe some students didn’t get it. Maybe a better way to check if what we said was understood would be to ask a question about the topic that we just presented. What would be even better would be to ask a question that would engage the students to go further in their thinking about the topic. By “further” I mean further than what we just presented which implies that we didn’t present everthing. by leaving some space to questions we trigger their curiosity and thus their thinking.

Or maybe instead of presenting a topic, we should just ask a question! (this is what we do with a pre-assessment I suppose). This idea is what is basically presented in the article Inquiry Based Learning.

Essential Questions

An essential question:

  • provokes deep thought.
  • solicits information-gathering and evaluation of data.
  • results in an original answer.
  • helps students conduct problem-related research.
  • makes students produce original ideas rather than predetermined answers.
  • may not have an answer.
  • encourages critical thinking not just memorization of facts.

Further looking into the topic I found that – Essential Questions are found at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1954).

They require readers to:

  • EVALUATE (make a thoughtful choice between options, with the choice based upon clearly stated criteria)
  • SYNTHESIZE (invent a new or different version)
  • ANALYZE (develop a thorough and complex understanding through skillful questioning)


Essential Questions

Writing Essental Questions


Socratic Questions

The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se, is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined and deep, and usually focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.” (Linda Elder, R. P. (2007). The Thinkers Guide to the Art of Questioning. Foundation for Critical Thinking.)

Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life.

How to Use the Socratic Method in the Classroom



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s