"The skills of the 21st Century will
be to define the right questions, not to remember the answers."
Michael Barber, New Frontiers in Learning, October 1999
As educators, let's ask ourselves, "Why
do we ask questions?" We can ask questions:
Let us look at that last category "to
encourage thinking" in a bit more depth.
- ...to find out if someone
- ...to test memory/recall
- ...to challenge
- ...to encourage sharing
- ...to stimulate interest
- ...to encourage sharing
There are a number of taxonomies
which attempted to classify learning behaviour and provide help
to measure levels of learning. If we borrow some theory from Bloom's
taxonomy, we can see that the levels of thinking mean
that there should also be different levels of questioning. Bloom's
taxonomy forces us to consider our reasons for asking questions.
So we try to encourage our learners to think beyond mere recall.
Here is a simplified summary of the hierarchy:
- asking learners to remember information they have previously learnt
e.g. Who? What? When? Where? etc.
- asking pupils to make sense of
something - especially in their own words e.g. What does the writer
mean? Say it in your own words.
asking learners to understand something
and then apply it to a new situation e.g. What is important about
this? What can we learn from this? How is this related to ...?
asking learners to break something
down into parts, understand the nature of those parts and how they
relate to each other e.g. What are the features of? Compare and
contrast. What evidence can you find for...?
- asking learners to build or create
new ideas by incorporating many bits of information. e.g. What would
you predict from...? What ideas can you add to...? What might happen
if you...? What solutions can you suggest for...?
- asking learners to make judgments
- especially about quality. e.g. Do you agree...? What is wrong
with...? What do you think about...? What is most important...?
Place in order of priority...
is, in and of itself, important because it promotes the learning
and thinking process. Thinking is driven not by answers, but by
questions whereby they define tasks and delineate issues."
In this article David Kopp gives 6 ways to improve
If you would like to have more help with varieties
of questions, according to this taxonomy, you may click here to
use this table
as a reference next time you are planning a questioning strategy
or your lesson. This useful table also suggests the types
of activities you can plan for your learners depending on the types
of skills you want them to develop.
There are a number of taxonomies of thinking skills.
These become so lengthy that it may help to categorise thinking
skills into those with some common elements. You can view
these categories if you are interested by clicking
six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
Their names are What? and Why? and When?
And How? and Where? and Who?