Questioning Strategies At A Glance: Higher Order Thinking & Assessing
By Claire Gladney

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What is questioning in the classroom?
Questioning in the classroom can be described as the use of well-constructed questions for a particular purpose that demand higher order thinking on the students’ behalf. Questions should be learning tools used by teachers to extend topics, enrich higher level thinking, and prompt students to critically analyze topics. By using higher level questioning in the classroom, teachers can lead students in manipulating information. This causes the development of deeper understandings, and, in turn, creates a learning environment that is both effective and efficient.

Why should teachers use higher level questioning as an instructional tool?
With the increase in high-stakes testing, students must be trained to analyze and process information at a higher level. National standards are demanding that students think beyond the “what” and “why” questions, and state-wide assessments reflect these demands. When teachers raise the level of questioning in the classroom, students will be prepared for the level of questioning on county and state assessments. While most teachers use questioning not only as a learning tool but also as a management tool, they must also reflect upon the TYPES of questioning they are using. There is a direct correlation between the levels of questioning in the classroom and student achievement. When should teachers use higher level questioning?
Teachers should be using throughout every lesson. Questioning is an ongoing process that should occur throughout every lesson in every subject area. Questions used during lessons should be rigourous and engage students at all times. Questions should be used before a lesson (to draw on prior knowledge, preview, and make connections), during a lesson (to check for comprehension and move the lesson forward), and after a lesson (to assess knowledge and skills). See the attached lesson plan for more details.

Questioning Levels:

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In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and a team of colleagues created categories for different types of questions (Crowe, 2010). Teachers should use varied types of questions to teach and assess student knowledge and skills. The lower levels include knowledge, comprehension, and application based questions. The higher levels include analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In order to foster higher level thinking skills, teachers should move away from constantly using lower level questioning. Bloom’s levels of questioning were named Bloom’s Taxonomy. Over the years, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been modified and changed by other educational theorists, but the main concept remains the same: higher level questioning leads to higher level readers, writers, thinkers, and problem solvers.

  1. Knowledge: The recall of factual information
  2. Comprehension: Show an understanding of the recalled information
  3. Application: Use of knowledge and evidence of comprehension
  4. Analysis: Investigating elements of information
  5. Synthesis: Putting together information and reconstructing information for new relationships
  6. Evaluation: Making judgments about the quality of information
(Crowe, 2010)

Target Questioning Words(Practical Applications): (Bloom, 1956)
Level of Questioning
Words for Questioning
choose, circle, count, define, who, what, where, when, why, write, select, say underline, tell, state, spell, show, repeat, record, recognize, recall, read, know, label, identify, find, describe, point to, outline, name, match, memorize
add, clarify, define, example, give, interpret, relate, review, approximate, compare, contrast, demonstrate, explain, express, identify, map, rephrase, subtract, summarize, translate, understand, predict, rewrite, retell, generalize, extend, discuss, conclude
acquire, action, act out, adapt, alter, answer, apply, calculate, carry out, conduct, change, choose, determine, develop, dramatize, draw, employ, illustrate, modify, manipulate, organize, respond, solve, show, sketch, practice, predict, place, perform, prepare
analyze, ask, catalog, categorize, chart, classify, compare, contrast, decode, deduce, diagram, differentiate, survey, sort, sequence, review, proofread, outline, order, observe, distinguish, divide, document, edit, examine, explain, focus, group, indentify, infer, inquire, monitor
adopt, arrange, assemble, blend, build, collect, combine, compile, compose, connect, construct, coordinate, create, design, detect, devise, develop, elaborate, explain, form, format, formulate, frame, gather, graph, judge, hypothesis, interact, invent, model, monitor, organize, plan, publish, refine, revise, synthesize, test, write
agree, appraise, assess, conclude, consider, criticize, critique, debate, decide, defend, discriminate, dispute, editorialize, estimate, evaluate, explain, grade, hypothesize, influence, interpret, judge, verify, value, test, support, recommend, rate, prove, justify, perceive

Questioning Stems (Practical Application): (Bloom, 1956)
Level of Questioning
Stems for Questioning
What do you remember about…?
How would you define…?
Where is…?
Who was…?
What is/are…?
Why did…?
Which one…?
What happens when…?
What would happen if…?
How can you describe…?
What did you observe when…?
How would you clarify the meaning…?
What can you infer…?
How would you express…?
How would you change…?
How would you modify…?
Why does _ work?
How would you present…?
How would you demonstrate…?
Show me how to…
What would the result be if…?
What other way would you choose to…?
Discuss the pros and cons of…
What is your analysis of…?
How is related to _?
How can you compare the different parts…?
What explanation do you have for…?
How can you sort the parts of…?
What can you infer…?
What ideas validate…?
What alternative would you suggest for…?
What changes would you make to revise _?
How would you explain the reason for…?
What could you invent…?
Predict the outcome if…
How would you portray…?
Devise a way to…
How would you compile the facts for…
What would happen if…?
What criteria would you use to assess…?
Describe how you would determine the facts for…
Verify how you…
Rate the …
What information would you use to prioritize…
Explain your opinion of…
How would you grade…
What choice would you have made if…
What date was used to evaluate…?
Four Practical Applications for the Classroom:
  1. Before Reading or Before Attending to a New Task
    1. Preview title or author (Can anyone describe for me what this title makes them think of? Has anyone ever heard of this author? Explain to me what was going on during the time period that this text was published. Predict, based on the title and what we know about the author/time period.)
    2. Preview the skill (What types of skills might we need to solve this problem? Can anyone remind me how to _? Can you tell me how you think we might need to solve this problem? Are there any parts of this problem that look new to you?)
    3. K-W-L chart or K-W-W-L for social studies classes (add a “where would we find this information” column)
  2. During Reading
    1. Cornell notes with higher level questions (Predict what you think Oedipus will do next. How would you respond to this new information? Do you think Atticus’ actions are justified? Why?) These questions can also be simple comprehension checks (W questions). Students can also summarize afterwards.
    2. Dialectical Journals: Students pull quotes from the text and engage in dialogue by doing the following: discuss purpose, ask the text questions, discuss conflicts, make predication, make connections, discuss societal values/norms displayed in the quote, judge a person/character’s actions or decisions.
    3. Compare & Contrast using Venn Diagrams, sequence events of a text or event, think-aloud based on higher level questioning, debate issues within a text.
  3. Post Reading/Post New Learning
    1. MSA/HSA style question stems instead of just who/what/where/when/why questions
    2. Essay prompts using evaluation/synthesis words and prompts
    3. Debates where students must justify and defend their stance
    4. Create products or visuals. Assemble products.
    5. Compose questions for others
    6. Pose real world issues students must solve
    7. Analyze and explain an author’s purpose, tone, diction and connect to a text
  4. Engage students in classroom discussions where they have composed questions and gathered topics they would like to discuss based on the curriculum. This is a student driven discussion where the teacher cannot intervene and lead the discussion. Throughout an entire class period, teachers will use questioning. These can include Philisophical Chairs, Fishbowl Discussions, and Socratic Seminars. Teachers should try to come up with 3-5 higher level questions before a lesson that they will ask students to ensure critical thinking takes place.
Example Lesson Plan with Higher Level Questioning:

Bloom, Benjamin S. 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Bond, N. (1e20). Questioning strategies that minimize behavior problems. Education Digest, 73(6), 41-45.

Bryan, Jan. Questioning the known. The Reading Teacher; Apr 1998; 52, 7; ProQuest Education Journals 618-620

Crowe, M. Ph.D., Stanford, B.P. Ed.D., (2010). Questioning for Quality. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin. 36-44.

Veeravagu, J. , Muthusamy, C. , Marimuthu, R. , & Michael, A. (2010). Using bloom's taxonomy to gauge students' reading comprehension performance/utiliser la taxonomie de bloom pour evaluer les performances de comprehension ecrite des eleves. Canadian Social Science, 6(3), 205.

Wineburg, S. , & Schneider, J. (7e20). Inverting bloom's taxonomy. Education Week, 29(6), 28-31.