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Title: one can rephrase the chinese proverb: ask a man a question

The Art of QuestioningCreating Reflective,
Thought-Full LearnersBy Lori Bryden
Curriculum ConsultantCatholic District School
Board of Eastern OntarioAugust 2004(Research
Project, Masters of Education, Acadia University)

The Art of QuestioningCreating Reflective,
Thought-Full Learners
  • Questions, not answers are at the heart of
    education (Dennis Duncan, teacher).
  • I have no answers, only questions (Socrates c.
    300 BC).
  • An unanswered question is a fine travelling
    companion. It sharpens your eye for the road
    (Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.).

How Do You Use Questioning?
  • As An Instructional Tool?
  • As an Assessment Tool?

Why Teach Questioning?
  • Questioning is the cornerstone of creativity.

Why Teach Questioning?
  • Research states that effective questioning
    strategies have a positive impact on overall
    student achievement.
  • Knowing how to think to extend the mind beyond
    the obvious and develop creative solutions to
    problems should be the outcome of a good
  • Our thinking skills affect how well we can
    receive and process new information.
  • To question well is to teach well (Wilen, 1991)

  • North American children fall short in this
    critical skill. Studies show that teachers ask
    students limiting questions. From a study at the
    University of Nebraska, it is noted that based on
    questions teachers ask, 60 require only recall
    of facts, 20 require students to think and 20
    are procedural in nature. Researcher John
    Goodlad (1983) of the University of Washington
    reports that only 1 of classroom questions
    invite students to give their own opinions.

One can rephrase the Chinese proverb Ask a man
a question and he inquires for a day. Teach a
man how to question and he inquires for a
  • Teachers say that they teach by asking questions
    but they cant describe the types of questions
    that they ask.
  • Teachers frequently say that all questions have
    merit but thats not the case with teacher
    questions. The content of the question and the
    manner in which teachers ask them determines
    whether or not they are effective.

What is a Good Question?
  • For a question to be effective, it must be
    clear, concise relevant to both the subject
    material and the student and most importantly it
    should inspire creative thinking.

Good Questions
  • Good questions recognize the wide possibilities
    of thought and are built around varying forms of
  • Good questions are directed toward learning and
    evaluative thinking rather than determining what
    has been learned in a narrow sense.

A Good Question
  • A Good Question
  • Contributes to learning
  • Sparks further questions and interest in seeking
  • Involves critical and creative thinking
  • Goes beyond recall of basic information
  • Provides challenge but is not too threatening
  • Is appropriate to the learning situation and the
  • Builds on prior knowledge and makes connections
  • Involves students in reflection and/or planning

Asking Good QuestionsIf only I could ask the
right question (Albert Einstein)
  • Ever since Socrates asked questions to provoke
    his students into thinking and analyzing their
    thoughts about 2200 years ago, educators have
    recognized the value of good questioning
    strategies. Researchers estimate that up to 90
    percent of questions asked in elementary and
    secondary school ask students to regurgitate
  • The art of asking questions is one of the basic
    skills of good teaching. Socrates believed that
    knowledge and awareness were an intrinsic part of
    each learner. Thus, in exercising the craft of
    good teaching an educator must reach into the
    learners hidden levels of knowing and awareness
    in order to help the learner reach new levels of
  • Questions serve many purposes, including
    assessing what students already know, setting the
    stage for a new lesson by piquing students
    curiousity, determining what factual information
    students have absorbed, and stimulating
    higher-order thinking so students can apply what
    theyve learned to new situations.

Questioning and Critical Thinking
  • Critical thinking has become a hot topic in
    education today. The concept of critical
    thinking is applied in all subject areas.
    Education is nothing more, nor less, than
    learning to think!
  • The common feeling in education today is that
    students must become critical thinkers in order
    to assimilate and accommodate information, thus
    becoming a true learner.

Can Thinking Skills Be Taught? Yes!
  • The purpose of critical thinking is to achieve
    understanding, evaluate view points, and solve
    problems. Since all three areas involve the
    asking of questions, we can say that critical
    thinking is the questioning or inquiry we engage
    in when we seek to understand, evaluate or
    resolve. Critical thinkers distinguish between
    fact and opinion ask questions make detailed
    observations uncover assumptions and define
    their terms and make assertions based on sound
    logic and solid evidence.
  • Maybe the question should be Can children be
    taught to think more effectively?

The Griney Grollers Thinking Skills Test
  • The griney grollers
  • grangled in the
  • granchy gak.
  • 1. What kind of grollers were they?
  • 2. What did the grollers do?
  • 3. Where did they do it?
  • 4. In what kind of gak did they grangle?
  • 5. In one sentence, explain why-the grollers
    were grangling in the granchy gak.
  • 6. If you had to grangle in a granchy gak, what
    one item would you choose to
  • have with you and why?

The Moral of the Griney Grollers Story
  • Students can answer low-level questions without
  • Students enter/exit classrooms with no more
    understanding of what theyve learned than The
    Griney Groller taught you!

  • Thinking is what happens when your mouth stops
    and your brain keeps working.
  • (Dennis the Menace)

  • Resnick (1987) argues that a new challenge to
    develop educational programs that assume that all
    individuals, not just the elite, can become
    competent thinkers because these competencies are
    now required of all. The cognitive approach
    suggests that learners must develop an awareness
    of themselves as thinkers and learners and
    practise the approaches and strategies for
    effective thinking.

Blooms Taxonomy and Critical Thinking
  • Thirty years ago, Benjamin Bloom (1956) suggested
    that the same information can be handled in more
    and less demanding ways. Students can be asked
    to recall facts, to analyze those facts, to
    synthesize or discover new information based on
    the facts or to evaluate knowledge.

Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis,
Synthesis, Evaluation
  • Bloom proposed a theoretical ranking of the
    levels of thinking that people use. At the
    simple and basic level, Bloom suggested that
    people operate at a very concrete level of
    knowledge. Moving beyond that, people are able
    to comprehend what the facts are about and to
    some extent, they are able to manipulate those
    ideas by comparing or contrasting or even
    retelling events in their own words.
  • At the next level, people are able to apply what
    they have learned from facts and comprehension.
    This level of thinking permits them to
    demonstrate knowledge, solve or apply what they
    know to new and related situations. Moving
    beyond application, the next level of thinking
    allows people to analyze what they know. At this
    level, typically they can classify, categorize,
    discriminate or detect information.

All our knowledge results from questions, which
is another way of saying that question-asking is
our most important intellectual tool (Postman,
  • The two highest levels of cognitive thought
    according to Bloom are synthesis and evaluation.
    In synthesis the individual is able to put ideas
    together, propose plans, form solutions, and
    create new information. In the evaluation stage,
    the thinker is able to make choices, select
    evaluate and make judgements about information
    and situations.

How Blooms Relates To Our View of the Student
  • Blooms Taxonomy divides the way people learn
    into three domains. It is concerned with the
    development of the whole student and the whole
    student can be said to be divided into three
  • 1. What the student thinks and knows (The
    Cognitive Domain).
  • 2. What the student feels about what he/she
    thinks and knows (The Affective
  • Domain).
  • 3. What the student does as a result
    of his or her knowledge, thoughts and
  • feelings (The Psychomotor Domain).

Blooms Taxonomy and Assessment
  • Blooms Taxonomy
  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation
  • Achievement Chart
  • Knowledge/Understanding
  • Application
  • Thinking/Inquiry/Problem Solving

Attributes of a Critical Thinker (Ferrett in
Peak Performance, 1997)
  • Asks pertinent questions
  • Assesses statements and arguments
  • Is able to admit a lack of understanding or
  • Has a sense of curiousity
  • Is interested in finding new solutions
  • Is able to clearly define a set of criteria for
    analyzing ideas
  • Is willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and
    opinions and weigh them against facts
  • Listens carefully to others and is able to give
  • Sees that critical thinking is a life-long
    process of self-assessment
  • Suspends judgement until all facts have been
    gathered and considered
  • Is able to adjust opinions when new facts are
  • Looks for proof
  • Examines problems closely

Elements of a Skilled Questioner
  • The crucial elements of a skilled questioner are
    that they are brief and concise, are prepared to
    rephrase questions, are prepared to draw further
    responses from participants, use a variety of
    techniques, redirect questions/responses, provide
    feedback and reinforcement without repeating
    answers and spread questions around the class.  
  • The ability to ask questions is an art form and
    one, which takes commitment and perseverance.
    For many instructors, it is necessary to
    pre-plan questions. Planned questions can
    provide a framework for a lesson plan and keep
    the instructor and the students on topic.

Types of Questions The quality of the students
thinking, and subsequent responses, will be
influenced by the questioning techniques used by
the teacher.
  • Closed Questions typically begin with do, is,
    can, could, will, would, shall or should. Closed
    questions usually have only one response. These
    are usually used to recall information and assess
    the prior and post activity knowledge of the
    students. When this type of question is
    necessary, follow with an open-ended question. 
  • Open Ended Questions usually begin with who,
    what, when, where, or how. Open ended questions
    are useful to stimulate group discussion.  In
    open ended questions there may be many different
  • Higher level questions are questions that require
    students to work out answers rather than memorize
    them. The goal of higher level questions is to
    give the student a license to explore the
    possibilities. Bloom categorizes higher level
    questions into three categories analysis,
    synthesis and evaluation. Higher level questions
    encourage students to think more deeply and
    critically, to problem solve, inspire discussions
    and stimulate students to seek information on
    their own.

Transforming Closed Questions into Open Questions
  • Look at the type of question. Is it a closed
    question? (Only one possible answer)
  • Use different language to change it into an open
    question (with more than one answer or no
    possible answer).

Beginning to Ask Questions
  • A skilfully orchestrated question and answer
  • causes a chain effect, in which, the instructor
  • students can journey from simple factual
    inquiries to
  • an insightful exchange of information, ideas and
  • realizations. As an instructors ability to
    engage the
  • learner, and incorporate questioning techniques
  • the classroom increases, so will the opportunity
    of teachable
  • moments.

Applying BloomsBlooms Taxonomy gives a
six-fold model to comprehension.
  • Here is an example of questions used with a
    simple source, the nursery rhyme Little Boy Blue,
    during a Primary environmental study.
  • Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
  • The sheeps in the meadow, the cows in the corn,
  • Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
  • Hes under the haystack, fast asleep.

Questioning with Little Boy Blue
  • Knowledge (Remembering) In this picture, what is
    the colour of the boys coat?
  • Comprehension (Understanding) Can you describe
    his coat in your own words?
  • Application (Solving) Do you know someone like
    Little Boy Blue?
  • Analysis (Reasoning) Why might he have fallen
  • Synthesis (Creating) I wonder how he will
    explain to the farmer how the cow got into the
  • Evaluation (Judging) Does it matter if he
    falls asleep if no one ever finds out?

The Mysteries of Harris BurdickBy Chris Van
  • The House on Maple Street
  • Knowledge What is happening in the
  • picture?
  • Comprehension How did you determine what is
  • happening?
  • Application What questions would you ask if you
  • could interview the owner of the house?
  • Analysis What evidence can you find that
  • this is an unusual event?
  • Synthesis What would happen if your house
  • started to rise?
  • Evaluation Based on what you know, how
  • would you explain this occurrence?

QUILT Technique
  • QUILT questioning and understanding to improve
    learning and thinking. This program was
    developed to enhance student learning by
    improving teachers classroom questioning
  • During 1991-92, the QUILT program was classroom
    tested in 13 school districts with more than
    1,200 teachers.
  • The QUILT program claims to show an increase in
    teacher understanding of effective classroom
    questioning and a corresponding use of effective
    questioning practices along with an increase in
    student thinking.

5 Stages of QUILT
  • Stage 1 Preparing the question
  • Identify the instructional purpose
  • Pause after asking question
  • Determine content focus
  • Select cognitive level
  • Stage 2 Presenting the question
  • Indicate response format
  • Ask the question
  • Select respondent

  • Stage 3 Prompt student responses
  • Pause after asking question
  • Assist non respondent
  • Pause following student response 
  • Stage 4 Responding to student responses
  • Provide appropriate feedback
  • Expand and use correct responses
  • Elicit student reactions and questions
  • Stage 5 Critiquing the questioning period
  • Analyze the questions
  • Map respondent selection
  • Evaluate student response patterns
  • Examine teacher and student reactions

Questioning Dos and Donts
  • 1. Pose the question first, before asking the
    student to respond.
  • 2. Allow plenty of think time by waiting at
    least 5 seconds.
  • 3. Make sure you give all students the
    opportunity to respond rather than relying on
  • volunteers. Create a system to help you
    keep track of who you call on.
  • 4. Hold students accountable by expecting and
    facilitating their participation and
  • contributions.
  • 5. Never answer your own questions. Do not
    accept I Dont Know.
  • 6. Establish a safe environment for risk
    taking by guiding students in the process of
  • from their mistakes. Always dignify
    incorrect responses by saying something positive.
  • 7. After asking the question, the instructor
    would remove himself from the center of
  • attention. It is extremely important to
    pause after a question. This silence allows the
  • students the opportunity to compose their
    thoughts,. There is a direct correlation between
  • the pause time and the quality of the
    response. Higher level questions require
  • considerable time for students to
    formulate answers. A longer response time will
    foster a
  • climate for students to become critical
  • 8. When a student asks the instructor a
    question the instructor should redirect the
    question to the class.

Asking Questions That Foster Student Achievement
  • ask questions of primarily an academic nature
  • allow three to five seconds of wait time
  • encourage students to respond in some way to each
    question asked
  • balance responses from volunteering and
    nonvolunteering students
  • elicit a high percentage of correct responses
    from students and assist with incorrect responses
  • acknowledge correct responses from students and
    use praise specifically and discriminately

Build a Questioning ToolkitQuestion finding is
the ability to go to a poem, a painting, a piece
of music a mathematical description and find a
novel direction for investigation. This ability
is difficult to teach directly, but it may be one
of the most authentic and humanely posed.
  • Beginning a new unit Start a new unit by
    asking students to think of questions that could
    be asked about the topic. Students will model
    higher level questions if teachers expose them to
    this process. Teachers can categorize questions.
    Teach students that questions are like tools in a
    toolbox. They are used for different purposes.
    Thinking requires a choice of questions. Primary
    students may categorize questions according to
    Fact Questions Why Questions Imagine Questions.

Critical Thinking and the Brain-Compatible
Classroom I think, therefore I am. (Descartes)
  • Critical thinking ties in with the
    brain-compatible classroom. The
  • brain-compatible classroom relies on a four
    corner framework
  • Teach FOR Thinking Creating a rich, safe
    learning environment
  • Teach Skills OF Thinking Teaching life skills
    from novice level to expert level
  • Teach WITH Thinking Constructing meaning with
    intense, active involvement
  • Teach ABOUT Thinking Fostering application and
    transfer with metacognitive reflection
  • When the brain is challenged, it becomes engaged
    in intense activity (Sylwester, 1995 Wolfe,
    1996 Caine and Caine, 1991)

QuestioningThe Strategy That Propels Readers
  • Reasons for students to develop their own
  • Increases motivation to learn
  • Improves comprehension and retention
  • Encourages creativity and innovation
  • Teaches how to think and learn
  • Provides a basis for problem solving and decision
  • I wonder?

Coding the TextSticky Note Reading
  • Teachers model how to use post-it notes when
    reading both fiction and non-fiction text to
    understand the text. The students write
    predetermined symbols on the note and post it on
    the page. To differentiate between fiction and
    non-fiction text, the codes can be altered.
  • Example
  • Question ?
  • Interesting Observation !
  • Important Fact
  • Learned Something New
  • Confusing

Asking Questions While ReadingCreating and
Strengthening a Readers Dialogue
  • He came with his little girl. She wore her
    best frock. You noticed what good care she took
    of it. Others noticed too-idly noticed that,
    last year, it had been, the best frock on another
  • In the morning sunshine it had been festive.
    Now most people had gone home. The balloon
    sellers were counting the days takings. Even
    the sun had followed their example, and retired
    to rest behind a cloud. So the place looked
    rather bleak and deserted when he came with his
    little girl to taste the joy of Spring and warm
    himself in the freshly polished Easter sun.
  • But she was happy. They both were. They
    had learned a humility of which you still have no
    conception. A humility which never makes
    comparisons, never rejects what there is for the
    sake of something else or something more.

The 3Rs Framework for Developing Critical
  • The 3Rs Retell, Relate, Reflect
  • by Susan Schwartz and Maxine Bone
  • The 3Rs framework is a useful tool to help
    students learn to respond in meaningful ways.
    Students share their knowledge by retelling a
    story relating parts of the story to their own
    experiences and knowledge and reflecting by
    thinking, questioning and wondering.
  • Teachers model and demonstrate the 3Rs using the
    think-aloud strategy and/or the mini-lesson

The 3Rs and Critical ThinkingThe 3 Scoops of
  • Retell (Knowledge/Comprehension)
  • Relate (Application, Analysis)
  • Reflect (Synthesis, Evaluation)
  • (Susan Schwartz and Maxine Bone)

Beyond Critical ThinkingCritical
LiteracyEnhancing Students Comprehension of
  • Students today experience a constant stream of
    ideas and information-online, in print, and
    through electronic games and mass media. They
    need to be taught how to approach all texts with
    a critical eye.
  • Critical literacy provides a way for students to
    think more deeply about the texts they meet and
    the text they create. It provides a way to
    challenge the learner to look beyond the literal
    message, to read between the lines, to observe
    what is present and what is missing, and to
    reflect on the content and way the author
    constructed the text to influence the reader.
    Critical literacy goes beyond conventional
    critical thinking because it often includes
    questions about fairness, equity and social
  • Critical literacy is a lens or overlay for
    viewing texts that becomes a regular part of
    classroom practice.
  • Critical literacies involve people using
    language to exercise power, to enhance everyday
    life in schools and communities, and to question
    practices of privilege and injustice (Comber,

Four Roles of The Literate Learner(Luke and
Freebody, 1999)
  • Meaning Maker
  • Uses prior knowledge and experience to
    construct and communicate meaning when reading,
    writing and speaking.
  • Code Breaker
  • Recognizes and uses the features and
    structures of written, visual and spoken texts,
    including the alphabet, sounds in words,
    spelling, conventions, sentence structure, text
    organization, graphics, other visuals.
  • Text User
  • Understands that the purpose and audience
    help to determine the way a text is structured,
    the tone, the degree of formality, and the
    sequence of components-and uses this knowledge to
    read, write and speak.
  • Text Analyst
  • Understands that texts are not neutral, that
    texts represent particular views and
    perspectives, and that other views and
    perspectives may be missing. The design and
    messages of texts can be critiqued and

Creating Reflective and Thought-Full
LearnersHow do I know I know?
  • Reflective thinking is linked to critical
    thinking because questioning and assessing
    involve organizing, reasoning, hypothesizing and
  •   What Do Reflective/Metacognitive Students Do?
  • Question
  • Link ideas to previous/predicted/current
  • Think critically
  • Think creatively
  • Using Thought-Full Language in the Classroom
  • Use specific thinking terms rather than vague
    abstract terms
  • Posing questions that cause students to examine
    their own behaviour

Explicitly teach the language of critical
thinking-the verbs!
  • Lets compare these two pictures. (instead of
  • What do you predict will happen when? (instead
    of think)
  • How can you classify? (instead of group)
  • Lets analyze this problem. (instead of work
    this problem)
  • What conclusions can you draw? (instead of what
    did you think)

How we Know Students Are Getting Better At
Thinking We are interested in assessing not
what students know in so much as how students
behave when they dont know
  • Indicators that Instructional Methods Are Paying
  • Persistence When the solution to a problem is
    not immediately apparent.
  • Decreasing Impulsivity Students will think
    longer before answering, make sure they
    understand before beginning a task, listening to
    alternative points of view planning strategies
    to solve problems more effectively.
  • Listening to Others with Understanding and
    Empathy Some psychologists believe that the
    ability to listen to another person, to empathize
    with and to understand their point of view, is
    one of the highest forms of intelligent
  • Flexibility in Thinking They begin to see
    several ways to solve problems and that their
    answers arent the only one to consider.

You may be a critical thinking teacher if
  • You may be a critical thinking teacher if
  • Learners are active and in continuous dialogue
    with teacher
  • Learning is constructing, not feeding
  • Truth is discovered, not delivered
  • Teacher leads from behind
  • Teacher functions as facilitator/mentor instead
    of lecturer
  • Questions are answered with explanations or
    questions, not simply yes or no
  • Questions rarely have one right answer
  • Pertinent discussions on related issues often
    break out
  • Debate is common
  • Peers exchange ideas
  • Learner and teacher satisfaction increases
  • Teachers often face questions for which there are
    no answers
  • Social interaction and acceptance in the class is
    generally high

The Reflective Classroom A Model to Improve
Teacher Questioning
  • 1. Teacher Questioning Questionnaire
  • 2. Classroom Questioning Tracking Sheet
  • 3. Questioning Strategies Observation Tool
  • 4. Classroom Questioning Tally
  • 5. Designing Questions

  • All The Best
  • In Your
  • Planning!

Beers, Kylene, (2003) When Kids Cant Read What
Teachers Can Do. Portsmouth, NH Heinemann
Publishers. Brualdi, Amy, (1998) Classroom
Questions. ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and
Evaluation, The Catholic University of
America, Shriver Laboratory, College Park,
Cotton, Kathleen, (2001). Classroom
Questioning. Northwest Regional Educational
Laboratory. C
otton, Kathleen, (2001). Teaching Questioning
Skills Franklin Elementary School. Northwest
Regional Educational Laboratory. Harvey,
S., and Goudvis, A. (2000). Strategies That
Work Teaching Comprehension to Enhance
Understanding. York, ME Stenhouse
Publishers. Heffernan, Lee, (2004). Critical
Literacy and Writers Workshop. Bloomington,
INDIANA International Reading Association.
  • McLaughlin, M., and DeVoogd, G., (2004) Critical
    Literacy Enhancing Students Comprehension of
    Text. New York, NY Scholastic.
  • Mittelstaedt, M. (1991) A Research Proposal for a
    Study to Support That an Early Childhood
    Teachers Perception of the Importance of Higher
    Cognitive Questioning Techniques Impacts the
    Implementation of the Questioning Techniques Done
    in the Classroom. Phi Delta Kappa Educational
  • Morgan, N., and Saxton, J., ((1994). Asking
    Better Questions. Markham, ON Pembroke
  • Muth, Jon, ((2002). The Three Questions. New
    York, NY Scholastic Press.
  • Schwartz, S., and Bone, M. (1995). Retelling,
    Relating, Reflecting Beyond the 3Rs. Toronto,
    ON Irwin Publishing.
  • Urbanoski, Janice, (2000). The Role of
    Questioning Techniques in the Classroom.
  • Van Allsburg, Chris, ((1984). The Mysteries of
    Harris Burdick. Boston, MA Houghton Mifflin
  • Wolf, Dennis Palmer, (1987). The Art of
    Questioning. Academic Connections, 1-7,