AND TYPES OF QUESTIONS
Questioning should be used purposefully to achieve
well-defined goals. An instructor should ask questions
which will require students to use the thinking skills
which he is trying to develop. A system exists for
organizing those thinking skills. Bloom's Taxonomy
(Benjamin Bloom (ed)., Taxonomy of Educational
Objectives: Handbook I Cognitive Domain (New York:
David McKay Co., 1956)) is a hierarchical system of
ordering thinking skills from lower to higher, with the
higher levels including all of the cognitive skills from
the lower levels.
Below are the levels of the taxonomy, a brief
explanation of each one, and examples of questions which
require students to use thinking skills at each level.
- Knowledge - Remembering previously learned
material, e.g., definitions, concepts,
- What is the definition of
- What is the law of supply and demand?
- What are the stages of cell division?
- Comprehension - Understanding the meaning of
remembered material, usually demonstrated by
explaining in one's own words or citing examples.
- What are some words which are commonly
used as adjectives?
- What does the graph on page 19 mean?
- Explain the process of digestion.
- Application - Using information in a new context
to solve a problem, to answer a question, or to
perform another task. The information used may be
rules, principles, formulas, theories, concepts,
- Using the procedures we have discussed,
what would you include in a summary of
- How does the law of supply and demand
explain the current increase in fruit and
- Based on your knowledge, what statistical
procedure is appropriate for this
- Analysis - Breaking a piece of material into its
parts and explaining the relationship between the
- What are the major points that E. B.
White used to develop the thesis of this
- What factors in the American economy are
affecting the current price of steel?
- What is the relationship of probability
to statistical analysis?
- Synthesis - Putting parts together to form a new
whole, pattern or structure.
- How might style of writing and the thesis
of a given essay be related?
- How are long-term and short-term consumer
loan interest rates related to the prime
- How would you proceed if you were going
to do an experiment on caloric intake?
- Evaluation - Using a set of criteria, established
by the student or specified by the instructor, to
arrive at a reasoned judgment.
- Does Hemingway use adjectives effectively
to enhance his theme in The Old Man and
- How successful would the proposed federal
income tax cut be in controlling
inflation as well as decreasing
- How well does the Stillman Diet meet the
criteria for an ideal weight reduction
At times instead of referring to a specific level of
the taxonomy people refer to "lower-level" and
"higher-level" questions or behaviors. Lower
level questions are those at the knowledge,
comprehension, and simple application levels of the
taxonomy. Higher-level questions are those requiring
complex application (e.g., analysis, synthesis, and
Usually questions at the lower levels are appropriate
- evaluating students' preparation and
- diagnosing students' strengths and weaknesses.
- reviewing and/or summarizing content.
Questions at higher levels of the taxonomy are usually
most appropriate for:
- encouraging students to think more deeply and
- problem solving.
- encouraging discussions.
- stimulating students to seek information on their
Typically an instructor would vary the level of
questions even within a single class period. For example,
an instructor might ask the synthesis 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 move to
questions at a lower level of the taxonomy to check
whether students know and understand material. For
example, the instructor might ask, "What is the
definition of 'thesis statement'?" or "What are
some variables in writing style?" If students cannot
answer those questions, the instructor might have to
temporarily change her teaching strategy, e.g., briefly
review the material. If students can answer lower level
questions, the instructor must choose a teaching strategy
to help students with the more complex synthesis which
the original questions requires, e.g., propose a concrete
problem which can be used as a basis for moving to the
more abstract synthesis. In the example used here, the
teacher might direct students to Jonathan Swift's
"Modest Proposal" and ask, "What is
Swift's thesis?" and "What are some terms you
can use to describe Swift's writing style?"
It is not essential that an instructor be able to
classify each question at a specific level. The Taxonomy
of Educational Objectives 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 asks. Figure 1 provides a summary of the
taxonomy and breakdown between lower and higher level
questions. Another way to examine questions is described
in the next section.
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 in which there are a
limited number of acceptable answers, most of which will
usually be anticipated by the instructor. For example,
"What is a definition for 'adjective'?"
requires that students give some characteristics of
adjectives and their function. While students may put the
answer in their own words, correct answers will be easily
judged and anticipated based on a rather limited set of
characteristics and functions of adjectives.
An open question is one in 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?" requires only that students name
"any adjective." The teacher may only judge an
answer as incorrect if another part of speech or a
totally unrelated answer is given. Although the specific
answer may not be anticipated the instructor usually does
have criteria for judging whether a particular answer is
acceptable or unacceptable.
Both open and closed questions may be at any level of
- An open low-level question might be:
- "What is an example of an
- An open high-level question might be:
- "What are some ways we might solve
the energy crisis?"
- A closed low-level question:
- "What are the stages of cell
- A closed high-level question:
- "Given the medical data before you,
would you say this patient is intoxicated or
suffering from a diabetic reaction?"
||TYPICAL STEM WORDS
||Understanding the meaning of
Give examples ...
||Selecting a concept or skill and
using it to solve a problem
||Breaking material down into its
parts and explaining the hierarchical relations.
||How does ... apply?
Why does ... work?
How does ... relate to ...?
What distinctions can be made about ...
||Producing something original
after having broken the material down into its
||How does the data support ...?
How would you design an experiment which
What predictions can you make based upon the
||Making a judgment based upon a
pre-established set of criteria.
||What judgments can you make
Compare and contrast ...criteria for ...?
- Levels and Types of
- Bloom's Taxonomy
- Lower and Higher Level Questions
- Open and Closed Questions
- Planning Questions
- Interaction Skills
- Physical Setting
- Instructor Attitude
- Calling on Students to Maximize Participation
- Handling Student Responses
- Responding to Student Questions
- Methods for Assessing
- Videotape Self-Review
- Colleague-Videotape Review
- Survey on Questioning
- Student Evaluation of Questioning Skills
- Suggestions for Interpreting Collected
- Assistance Offered by Instructional Development