Questioning (Teaching and Learning)

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Questions are powerful tools any teacher and learner can use to foster critical thinking, discuss challenging issues and evaluate your own knowledge. Effective questions, ones that facilitate higher level learning in Bloom's taxonomy, requires proper planning, careful construction and a reflection on teaching habits. Teachers must also become aware of how they react towards learners' responses for these can either stimulate or hinder discussions.

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Question Types

Several models have been put forward concerning the classification of different types of question. They assist teachers in selecting and constructing the appropriate questions to achieve the learning goals for a class.[1]

Bloom's Taxonomy

One of the most popular systems of classifying questions are based on Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. According to this model, questions can be divided into six types by examining the cognitive processes learners experience as they respond.

  • Knowledge - recalling information
    • What are the molecular components of water?
    • Where are Queen Charlotte Islands located?
  • Comprehension - understanding the problems and instructions.
    • Express in your own the Emancipation Proclamation.
    • Discuss the reasons behind Canada's role in Afghanistan.
  • Application - use an idea for a different situation
    • Explain how principles international diplomacy can support labour relations in the province.
    • Visualize public tax data.
  • Analysis - deconstructs ideas and concepts into its component parts; differentiates facts from inferences
    • Define sustainability from a social justice perspective
    • How will the new copyright legislation affect educational institutions?
  • Synthesis - combines knowledge from different sources to create new understandings
    • Develop a transportation plan based on the feedback from the town hall session.
    • Design a online resource using accessibility and sustainability as its guiding principles.
  • Evaluation -

Riegle System

Rodney P. Riegle classified questions into three main categories[2]:

  • Interrogative - Questions that request information from the learners.
    • Who will win the election?.
    • How is sulphur mined?
  • Rhetorical - Statements that come in the form of a question but they do not request any information.
    • Can you draw it this way?
    • If we agree to Medicare, can socialism be far behind.
  • Ambiguous - Questions that are difficult to determine if they are rhetorical or interrogative as well as those that can be interpreted in two or more ways.
    • Why won't this approach work?
    • Explain the Civil War.

Riegle suggests that most questions can be divided into either interrogative or rhetorical. Those that do not fall clearly between the two will be categorized as ambiguous. He puts forward several advantages of his alternative system, namely that (1) it can classify a broader range of questions excluded from Bloom's system; (2) the questions are categorized according to the use of ordinary language, not by cognitive processes; and (3) helps teachers become aware of their own ambiguously constructed questions as well as finding the meaning behind a learner's ambiguous questions.

Response Techniques


  1. Diane Halpern, Changing College Classroom (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994), 94.
  2. Rodney P. Riegle, "Classifying Classroom Questions," Journal of Teacher Education, 27 (1976): 160

ISW Materials

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Link to Complete Bibliography
For a complete bibliography, please visit the CTLT's shared folder on Refworks.

Having problems? Visit the RefWorks information guide.

  • Amin, Zubair and Hoon Eng Khoo. "Questions and Questioning Techniques". Basics in Medical Education. Singapore: World Scientific, 2003. Permalink.svg Permalink
  • BCIT Learning and Teaching Centre. Teaching Testing and Self-Evaluation Resources. "Using Questions Effectively."Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Bloom's Digital Taxonomy at Educational Origami Permalink.svg Permalink
  • "A Question of Question." About Teaching. 40 (1990).
  • Bishop, P. E. (1991). Resources for "asking the right questions: Teacher talk and critical thinking." Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Bradley, M. E., Thom, L. R., Hayes, J., & Hay, C. (2008). Ask and you will receive: How question type influences quantity and quality of online discussions.British Journal of Educational Technology,39(5), 888-900. Ubc-elink.png
  • Goodwin, Stephanie. "Planning Questions." Classroom Communication. Ed. Rose Ann. Neff and Maryellen Weimer. Madison: Magna, 1989. pgs. 75 - 89 Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Halpern, Diane. "Questioning Techniques for the Active Classroom." Changing College Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994. Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Hyman, Ronald. "Questioning in the College Classroom." Classroom Communication. Ed. Rose Ann Neff and Maryellen Weimer. Madison: Magna, 1989. pgs. 75 - 89 Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Kloss, R. J. (1988). Toward asking the right questions: The beautiful, the pretty, and the big messy ones. Clearing House,61(6), 245-48. Ubc-elink.png
  • Krathwohl, David R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory into Practice, 41(2), 212-218. Ubc-elink.png
  • Neal, M. (2011). Engaging students through effective questions.Education Canada,51(1). Ubc-elink.png
  • Overholser, James. "Socrates in the Classroom." College Teaching. 40 (1992): 14 - 19. Ubc-elink.png

Online Resources

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