Questioning for Quality

Given the emphasis on high stakes assessment prevalent in many contemporary classrooms, the powerful nature of questioning is often overlooked. Pertinent issues such as the nature and intention of the questions used in instructional settings, as well as the use of strategies used by the teacher in asking and eliciting responses to create meaningful dialog in the classrooms are central to an effective learning environment. This position paper addresses various types of questions and the importance of their use in today's classrooms. In addition, it offers examples of quality questioning strategies.

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Publication: Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin
Author: Crowe, Marge; Stanford, Pokey
Date published: July 1, 2010
Language: English
PMID: 17550
ISSN: 00118044
Journal code: DKGM

Position on Questioning

In today's world teachers face ever-increasing pressures, particularly within assessment-driven classrooms, to create a learning environment that is both efficient and effective (Trinkle, 2009). Without a deliberate plan to use questions as a learning tool, we believe teachers miss a powerful opportunity to create the type of dynamic and interactive dialog that promotes an environment in which students actively analyze and process information to answer good questions. By using a diversity of questions for different purposes, teachers can extend and enrich high level, critical thinking and learning naturally within their classrooms. Teachers can vary the types of questions posed to students in order to individualize instruction, adapting questions based on the depth of thinking required for a student to respond. Higher level questioning and thinking predicate the manipulation of information and ideas which, in turn, provide an opportunity to develop new ideas and understandings (The State of Queensland Department of Education, 2004).

The questions asked by teachers and student performance on high stakes assessments are connected since the level of questioning reflects the level of thinking expected within the classroom (Beyer,2000).Acommon characteristic of many classrooms is that teachers do most of the talking (Treffinger & Isakson, 2001). Efforts to improve questioning techniques must include an increased emphasis on providing the students enough time to think about and formulate adequate responses, and enough time to share these responses with their peers (Blosser, 2000; Wilen, Ishler & Hutchinson, 2000). Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2005) maintain cueing (helping students connect what they are learning to what they already know by prompting) and questioning are "at the heart of classroom practice" (p. 113). Research in classroom behavior indicates cueing and questioning might account for 80% of what occurs in a given classroom on a given day (Flippione, 1998). Questioning in the classroom is complex and dynamic in nature. Pertinent issues involve the types of questions posed (Bradley, Thorn, Hayer & Hay, 2007), wait time (Tincani & Crozier, 2007), and the purpose of the questions (Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers & Abell, 2008).

Educators know that questioning is a key aspect of the teaching and learning process (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000). Never-the-less, because questioning is used so often, teachers may not even realize the types or quality of the questions they use. Stigler and Hiebert (2004) suggest it is not differences in class organization, technologies, or even curriculum used in other countries that result in different levels of student achievement (as compared to the United States). Rather, it is the quality of questioning, explicit connections and depth of thought expected that contribute to the gap in student achievement. Weiss and Pasley (2004) assert questioning helps qualify, probe and challenge current ideas and expose misconceptions. Crockett (2004) points out wellexecuted questioning strategies encourage active participation in learning along with enhanced problem-solving and concept development. Questioning is a process teachers can improve if they are willing to focus on types of questions and strategies for their use (Bogan & Porter, 2005; Hobgood, Thibault & Walbert 2009).

Well-constructed questions, reflecting higher order thinking and constructed with a concerted purpose, underpin the acquisition of knowledge (Weiss & Pasley, 2004). Knowing the purpose or goal of a quality question will help to determine the appropriate question to pose (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000; Bloom, 1956). Furthermore, the integration of multilevel questioning during instruction allows for differentiation within the learning process (Rogers & Abell, 2008). Understanding and utilizing different types and levels of questions (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis) supports teachers' systematic development of questioning strategies (Hill & Flynn, 2008).

Teachers strive to create classrooms that promote learning and enthusiasm (Klem & Connell, 2004). The use of effective questions can promote this type of learning environment (Costa, 2000). However, it is not as simple as just deciding to ask more questions during the course of a lesson (Hill & Flynn, 2006). Teachers need to reflect on the nature of the questions they use and actively plan to implement the use of questions as part of their lesson planning (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000; Hill & Flynn, 2008). Integral to the planning process is determining how often questions are already used in the delivery of instruction. Often, teachers are surprised at the number of questions they pose for which they do not necessarily expect an answer. Once teachers reflect critically on their prior practices, the next step is to consciously craft a plan to use higher level questions (Hill & Flynn, 2008). To accomplish this, teachers need to consider what is to be learned and how the questions asked directly contribute to the goals.

The foundational work of Bloom (1956) recommends the use of complex and critical thinking skills. This 1956 model proposes classification levels of thinking within the cognitive domain, which have been reanalyzed, reorganizing, expanded, and reduced since Bloom's taxonomy was originally introduced (Bradley, Thorn, Hayer & Hay, 2007). One popular reinterpretation is provided by Marzano (2001), which expands the original taxonomy from six levels to eight. During the 1990's, the original taxonomy was transformed into a reframed taxonomy, one more descriptive of 21st century learning (Overbaugh & Schultz, 2005).

Overbaugh and Schultz (2005), expanding on the work of Anderson (2001, as cited in Heer, 2009), propose the following shifts in terminology: creating to evaluating, analysis to analyzing, application to applying, comprehension to understanding, and knowledge to remembering (readers are referred to the following online summary of the Overbaugh and Schultz model for further explication of changes in terminology: http :// educ/roverbau/Bloom/bloomstaxonomy.htm). The key idea teachers need to grasp is that the reinterpretation changed nouns to verbs, indicating learning is fluid and active, rather than a static body of knowledge one should acquire. Although new terminology suggested in reinterpretations has been available to educators since the early 1990's, Bloom's original terminology is often used both in professional literature and in classrooms. For this reason, both the terminology from Bloom's original list (1956) and the reinterpretation proposed by Anderson, and refined by Overbaugh and Schultz are included in the following exploration of questioning.

Types of Questioning

Why should teachers use knowledge questions?

Knowledge (or remembering in revised taxonomies) is the recall of factual information. Knowledge is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as (a) expertise and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject; (b) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information; or (c) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Quality questioning for knowledge (remembering) focuses on identification and recall of information. Unfortunately, the ease of using this level of question often limits the use of more complex questions (Bradley, Thorn, Hayer & Hay, 2007). Using quick answer strategies such as marker boards, post-it notes, and wholeclass response techniques allows everyone to answer at once and allows the teacher to survey the knowledge level of an entire group and efficiently go on with the lesson. Examples of knowledge questions might include: What happened after...? How many...? Can you name the...? Find the meaning of...? Which is true or false...? Potential activities and products proposed by Dalton and Smith (1986) include: write a list of any pieces of information you can remember; make a fact chart; make a list of the main events; recite a poem; and, make a timeline (Dalton & Smith, 1986; Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers &Abell, 2008).

Why should teachers use comprehension questions?

Comprehension (or understanding in revised taxonomies) is the ability to show understanding of information recalled. In general usage, and more specifically in reference to education and psychology, comprehension has roughly the same meaning as understanding. Comprehension questioning is appropriate when students need to work on organization and selection of facts and ideas. Strategies such as think/pair/ share allow students to collaborate and share their understanding. An important issue for consideration in developing comprehension questions is requiring students to answer in their own words. Examples of comprehension questions might include: Can you write in your own words. . .? Can you write a brief outline. . .? Can you distinguish between. . . ? Can you provide a definition for...? Potential activities and products might include: cut out or draw pictures to show a particular event; illustrate what you think the main idea was; write and perform a play based on the story; or, make an alphabet/ coloring book (Dalton & Smith, 1986; Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers & Abell, 2008).

Why should teachers use application questions?

Application (or applying in revised taxonomies) is the consideration of practical relevance of information. This type of questioning reflects a student's use of knowledge acquired or is evidence of comprehension of information. Application questions are appropriate when students need to practice using facts, rules, and principles. Giving students the opportunity to connect their learning through learning logs or problembased assignments offers opportunities to use application questioning. When a student answers, rather than commenting, the teacher can invite other students to connect or "extend" the previous answer. Examples of application questions might include: Do you know another instance where. . .? Can you group by characteristics such as...? What questions would you ask of . . . ? What factors would you change if...? A natural follow-up to application questions would be engaging students in relevant activities to apply their knowledge. Potential activities and products might include: construct a model to demonstrate how it will work; make up a puzzle game using the ideas from the content being learned; make a clay model of an item in the content being learned; or, make a scrapbook about the content being learned (Dalton & Smith, 1986; Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers & Abell, 2008).

Why should teachers facilitate the process of analysis?

Analysis (also analysis in revised taxonomies) is the ability to investigate elements of the information. Analysis, from the Greek "breaking apart," is the process of reducing a complex topic or substance into smaller parts to gain better understanding. Analysis questions require the student to separate a whole into components for a deeper understanding of content or a process. Questions that lead the student to cognitively process a complex idea into simpler more manageable parts helps the student see relationships and generalize learning. Debate and persuasion often require analysis questions for a student to successfully complete an assignment. Allowing students to design graphic organizers or webs based on questions that examine the constructs of a complex issue or idea are an option when facilitating analysis within a classroom. Examples of analysis questions from might include: Which events could have happened...? Why did . . .changes occur? How is . . . similar to ... ? Can you distinguish between ... ? What was the underlying theme of ...? Potential activities and products might include: design a questionnaire to gather information; write a commercial to sell a new product; make a flow chart to show the critical stages; or, write a biography of the study person (Dalton & Smith, 1986; Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers & Abell, 2008).

Why should teachers use synthesis questions?

Synthesis (or evaluating in revised taxonomies) is putting together information in a different way by reconstructing information in a new relationship or determining unique relationships. Synthesisstyled questioning is useful when helping students understand or create the combination of ideas to form a new whole. Questions that require a student create a plan, develop a hypothesis, draw conclusions, problem solve, and make predictions are all considered synthesis level questions. Examples of synthesis questions might include: Can you design a ...? Can you create new and unusual uses for ...? Why not compose a song about. . .? If you had access to all resources how would you deal with. . .? Potential activities and products might include: Invent a machine to do a specific task; create a new product; give it a name and plan a marketing campaign; sell an idea; devise a way to...; and, compose a rhythm or put new words to a known melody (Dalton & Smith, 1986; Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers & Abell, 2008).

Why should teachers use evaluation questions?

Evaluation (or creating in revised taxonomies) is the ability to make judgments about the nature or quality of information. Evaluation is systematic determination of merit, worth, and significance of something or someone using criteria against a set of standards. Evaluative questioning often is used to characterize and appraise opinions, facts, propaganda, and thoughtful insight. Strategies such as open-ended questions require students to provide their point of view or justification. Examples of evaluation questions include distinguishing between statements to determine fact and opinion, or justifying the logic applied by an author in a story. Examples of knowledge questions might include: Is there a better solution to...? Judge the value of...? Can you defend your position about. . .? Do you think ... is a good or bad thing? What changes to ... would you recommend? Potential activities and products might include: prepare a list of criteria to judge a show; indicate priority and ratings; make abooklet about five rules you see as important; convince others; write a letter to ...advise on changes needed at. . .; and, prepare a case to present your view about... (Dalton & Smith, 1986; Hill & Flynn, 2008; Rogers & Abell, 2008).


Generally, questioning is a strategy teachers employ after students have been engaged in a learning incident. Using questioning prior to a learning incident, however, can create a backdrop for processing the learning incident (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2005). Higher level questions tend to produce deeper levels of learning (Hamaker, 1986; Pressley, Tenenbaum, McDaniel & Wood, 1990; Trinkle, 2009). Consequently, teachers need a repertoire of questions for varied purposes.

Some questions are asked for the purpose of assessment. In many instances, teachers consider questioning only as a means of assessing for progress. However, student self-assessment and self-monitoring, facilitated by effective questioning, can be used as powerful metacognitive tools for students to use in making connections (Costa, 2000). Questions can also be used to check for conceptual understanding and to build "scientific habits of the mind" (Rogers & Abell, 2008 p.54). Different types of questions, including encyclopedic questions, meaningoriented questions, relational questions, valueoriented questions can provide a vehicle for leading students into varied avenues of thinking (Dahlgren & Oberg, 2001). It also should be noted that questioning strategies can enhance the development of conceptual understandings and identify prior conceptions and misconceptions (Weiss & Pasley, 2004). While questioning can give teachers powerful insight into student progress, it can also be used for probing and redirection (Gall, Ward, Berliner, Cahen, Winne, Elashoff & Stanton, 1978), and it can empower students to begin to see their own weaknesses and strengths when working to understand difficult content.

Questioning is not a new concept. It was used by ancient teachers. Socrates, considered a foundational teacher of Western thought, popularized the use of questioning in his teaching style to stimulate thought, analysis, and search of knowledge (Crockett, 2004). Capturing the strength of questioning is an often ignored strategy for enhancing and expanding the routine and of the teaching and learning process. And yet, questioning requires no special curriculum or technology. Indeed, questioning is an effective tool that can be developed by teachers when considering the instructional needs of students. Understanding the power of practical questioning strategies empowers teachers to engage students in active learning.


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Author affiliation:

Marge Crowe, Ph.D.

Barbara "Pokey" Stanford, Ed.D

Author affiliation:

the authors

Marge Crowe, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Education at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS. Her areas of interest include special education, autism, and behavior management. She is a member of Zeta State (MS), Alpha Gamma Chapter. To contact Dr. Margie Crowe, write to The University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Drive #5057, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 39406, or email her at Marge.Crowe@

Pokey Stanford, Ed.D., is Associate Professor of Education at The University of Southern Mississippi. Her current interests include multiple intelligence theory, and technology and assessment as intervention tools to further facilitate inclusive environments for all learners. To contact Dr. Barbara "Pokey" Stanford, write to The University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Drive #5057, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 39406, or email her at

Appendix: Helpful Web Sites for using Bloom's Taxonomy

This site provides question stems and activities for each level of Bloom's.

This site focuses on writing book reports using each of Bloom's domains.

This site gives a routine but also gives examples of questions written according to Bloom's domains. These activities are written for a secondary and post-secondary level.

Using Bloom's Taxonomy and Gardiner's Multiple Intelligences theory as a focus this site provides lesson plans, learning objectives, and an Assessment Sheet.

http ://

This site is designed to help teachers construct activities and products from each domain. The teacher can select a content area and then go through the construction process including the complexity/depth of the assignment, resource examples, suggested products and group size.

This is another example of a concise chart with verbs and questions stems.

This sites provides specific activities for literature activities tle=Blooms_Taxonomy_Tutorial_FL ASH

This site, constructed by the Colorado Community College System, provides a multimedia explanation with examples.

This site is designed as downloadable help that cna be included in a teacher plan book for use when planning lessons using Bloom's.

This site provides a chart including definition, teacher roles, student roles, provides verbs and products of activities Using Bloom's

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