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How To Ask Critical Thinking Questions: Part 1 of 3

While receiving my Master’s of Education in Secondary English I realized I was asking the wrong types of questions of my students. The answers I was getting were not what I wanted. I wanted deeper thought provoking, earth shattering answers.

This is when I began the task of changing my questioning techniques. I researched the power of the questions I asked and found that the types of questions I asked were not helping my students think and learn. I was focused on the answer instead of the question.

I also realized that when I did ask questions that required the students to think, I was thinking in my head, “Please hurry up, I’ve got two more points to give you before the bell rings.” Thus, me reverting back to the knowledge based, yes, no type questions.

The idea of the content coverage, I felt, dictated the type of question I asked. Coverage of standards are very important in public schooling. As your test scores reflect your ability to cover the standard and “hopefully” teach it to where the student can “recall” the answer for the standardized test.

Now, that I know better, I can do better. I now know that thinking is the result of the proper question. Questions must ignite our thought processes. As teachers, we should always ask the question, “Am I teaching this concept to where the students really understand?”

I am not talking about recalling the answer, I’m talking about can the student ask questions about the concept that have not been answered? That’s when you know you have taught your subject.

In the article, “Foundation for Critical Thinking”, the author states that an exam can be given to students by asking them to list all the questions that they have about a subject. When there are more questions asked after a subject has been taught, then the teacher has reached the deep learning.

Students need these types of questions:

Deep questions for thought underneath surface

Force students to deal with complexity

Questions of information

Force students to look at sources and quality of information

Questions of interpretation

Force students to organize and give meaning to information

Questions of point of view

Force students to exam our and their point of view

Questions of precision

Force students to give details and be specific

Questioning gives us power. The power of control gives you the power to take charge of the conversation you want to have with the students. As long as the questions are asked, you have control of what is discussed in your classroom.

Questions give us information. Information is what you get from questions. Asking the appropriate types of questions gives you information of whether the student fully understands the concept taught.

You will find whether there are holes in the knowledge of the concept and discover whether students have reached the critical thinking stage of learning. This stage will allow the teacher to determine whether a concept deserves re-teaching.

Questions allow you to listen. Listening to the student you will be able to determine whether the student is still at the knowledge stage or have advanced to the synthesis and analyzing stage of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

Questions allow you to persuade. Asking rhetorical questions that do not require an answer, just the thought process allows the student to consider what you are saying. The Socratic questioning technique forces the student to think rather than provide an answer.