Effective questioning sessions in classroom require advance preparation. While some instructors may be skilled in extemporaneous questioning, many find that such questions have phrasing problems, are not organized in a logical sequence, or do not require students to use the desired thinking skills.
Levels and types of questions
Questioning should be used to achieve well-defined goals. An instructor should ask questions that will require students to use the thinking skills that he or she is trying to develop. Bloom's Taxonomy is a hierarchical system for ordering thinking skills from lower to higher, where each level requires a student's mastery of the skills below it. It is not essential that an instructor be able to classify each question at a specific level. The taxonomy is introduced as a tool which is helpful for defining the kinds of thinking skills instructors expect from students and for helping to establish congruence between the instructor's goals and the questions he or she asks.
People often refer to "lower-level" and "higher-level" questions or behaviors, rather than assigning a specific level to those questions or behaviors. Lower-level questions are typically at the remember, understand, and apply levels of the taxonomy and are most appropriate for:
- evaluating students' preparation and comprehension
- diagnosing students' strengths and weaknesses
- reviewing and/or summarizing content
Higher-level questions involve the ability to analyze, evaluate, or create, and are most appropriate for:
- encouraging students to think more deeply and critically
- problem solving
- encouraging discussions
- stimulating students to seek information on their own
Typically, an instructor would vary the level of questions within a single class period. For example, an instructor might ask the higher-level question, "How can style of writing and the thesis of a given essay be related?" If she gets inadequate or incorrect student response to that question, she might ask lower-questions to check whether students know and understand the material. For example, she might then ask, "What is the definition of thesis statement?" or "What are some characteristics of different writing styles?"
In addition to asking questions at various levels of the taxonomy, an instructor might consider whether he is asking closed or open questions. A closed question is one for which there are a limited number of acceptable answers, most of which will usually be anticipated by the instructor. For example, "What is the definition of an adjective?" An open question is one for which there are many acceptable answers, most of which will not be anticipated by the instructor. For example, "What is an example of an adjective?"
Both open and closed questions may be used at any level of the taxonomy:
What are the stages of cell division?
Given the medical data before you, would you say this patient is intoxicated or suffering from a diabetic reaction?
What is an example of an adjective?
What are some ways we might solve the energy crisis?