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Processes used by Genesis instructional developers:
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Cues for Effective Questioning

Ways to Engage, Enhance, and Extend Student Thinking

  • Ask open-ended questions

    Reword questions to eliminate yes/no responses.

  • Develop questions carefully

    A few, "higher-order" questions are more productive than a lot of "lower-order" questions.

  • Use precise language

    This enables students to associate specific language with thinking processes and cues student responses.

  • Practice "wait-time"

    Provide 3-5 seconds of silence after a question and after a response.

  • Call on students randomly

  • Acknowledge all responses

    Passive (i.e., a nod) and active (i.e., paraphrasing) acceptance demonstrates that a response is valued.

  • Withhold criticism

    Respond to student answers non-judgmentally.

  • Paraphrase more often than praise

    This communicates that you’ve heard and that you understand. Doesn’t encourage conformity.

  • Use praise sparingly

    When used, give criteria.

  • Rephrase rather than repeat

    When students don’t understand, rephrase own question. Ask students to rephrase response when clarification is needed.

  • Ask students to "think about thinking"

    Provide opportunities for reflection and for "thinking aloud".

  • Plan for productive interaction

    "Think-pair-share" and small group cooperative learning encourage thoughtful student-student interaction.

  • Encourage question-asking

    Provide opportunities for students to develop own questions.

  • Thinking skills improve with practice
    Remember, thinking processes are developmental, so hang in there!

Questioning for a Range of Thinking

Examples of Questioning for Specific Types of Thinking

  • Knowledge: remembering, reciting, recognizing

    Who/what/when/where is _______?
    What do you remember about ______?

  • Comprehension: understanding, translating, estimating

    Given _____, what would you predict?
    What is meant by ______?

  • Creative thinking: elaborating, taking another point of view, brainstorming

    In what other ways can you _____?
    What details can you add to ________?

  • Application: using, demonstrating, solving
    How can you solve this (similar situation)?
    How could you use ______?

  • Analysis: comparing and contrasting, inferring, attribute listing

    How is this _____ like/different from this ______?
    What are the characteristics of _____?

  • Synthesis: hypothesizing, planning, creating
    How would you create a ______?
    What plan can you develop for solving _____?

  • Evaluation: justifying, rating, judging using criteria

    What criteria would you use to ______?
    Why do you agree/disagree with _____?

Adapted from Benjamin Bloom and Donald Treffinger

Examples of "Generic" Questioning

  • Questions calling for variety
    What are some different ways you could _____?
    What else might happen if _____?

  • Questions calling for clarification or extension
    What do you mean when _____?
    How is your description different from _____?

  • Questions calling for reasons or support
    Why do you think that is true for all _____?
    What makes you think so?

  • Questions asking students to focus on the task at hand
    What do you think might happen as a result of this (already discussed aspect)?
    What would you do in this _____?

Adapted from Hilda Taba

Questioning Within, Among, and Beyond Strategies and Lesson Types

Examples of Questioning to Build, Bridge, and Transfer

Following early skill development in the "problem solving thinking phases", questions can be posed to help students…

  • build skill within a specific thinking phase(s), strategy or Lesson Type so that the purpose, characteristics, and applications are fully understood.
    • How can you decide what information should be included in the headings when making a table?
    • How did looking back at this problem assist you in discovering alternative solutions?
    • Why was it helpful to solve this problem in a small group?

  • bridge or identify the connections among the attributes of problems, two or more strategies, and Lesson Types.
    • How is the organized list strategy different from the make-a-table strategy?
    • What is it about this problem that reminds you of yesterday’s problem? What do these characteristics tell us about strategies we might use with today’s problem?
    • How did your group improve upon the social skill that was introduced yesterday?

  • transfer their learning about one or more thinking processes, problems, or strategies to other academic or real-life situations.
    • In what real-life situations would drawing a picture be helpful?
    • What can we learn from our desire to jump into solving a problem that will help us in other subject areas?

Questions that build, bridge, or transfer may be appropriate in any of the "problem solving thinking phases" as well as in whole group "debriefing".


This material excerpted with permission from "Cues for Effective Questioning", by Cathy J. Cook and Claudette M. Rasmussen, June, 1989, NCREL. For a copy of the full text, which includes "Questioning to Develop Mathematical Power" and "Questioning for Critical Thinking in Mathematical Problem Solving," contact Cathy Cook at 630.571.4700

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