How to Ask Questions that Prompt Critical Thinking

How to Ask Questions that Prompt Critical Thinking

How to Ask Questions that Prompt Critical Thinking

  1. Avoid questions that have an easy one-dimensional answer.
  2. Plan your questions in advance, utilise Bloom's Taxonomy to identify whether they are likely to prompt, “higher order thinking”.

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Cognitive Processes

6. Creation / Synthesis: the ability to put facts together into a coherent whole, or, creatively achieve a new understanding by linking facts together
5. Evaluation: the ability to make judgements using criteria and standards
4. Analysis: ability to determine internal relationships
3. Application: the ability to apply what is learned to a new situation
2. Comprehension: the ability to interpret information in one’s own words
1. Knowledge: the ability to recall facts, opinions and concepts

From: Anderson et al (2001)

Example Question Constructs

1: Knowledge Exhibits previously learned material by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts and answers.

  • What is . . . ?
  • When did ____ happen?
  • How would you explain . . . ?
  • Why did . .. ?
  • How would you describe . .. ?
2: Comprehension Demonstrating understanding of facts and ideas by organising, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions and stating main ideas.
  • How would you compare . .. ? contrast.. ?
  • Explain in your own words . . . ?
  • What facts or ideas show . .. ?
  • What evidence is there that…?
3: Application Solving problems by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules in a different way.
  • What examples can you find to . . . ?
  • How would you show your understanding of. .. ?
  • What approach would you use to ... ?
  • What might have happened if. . . ?
4: Analysis Examining and breaking information into parts by identifying motives or causes; making inferences and finding evidence to support generalisations.
  • What inference can you make from. . . ?
  • How would you classify . . . ?
  • How would you categorise . .. ?
  • Can you identify the difference parts... ?
5: Evaluation Presenting and defending opinions by making judgements about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria.
  • How would you compare ……?
  • Which do you think is better….?
  • Evaluate contribution of ….. to …………….
  • What was the value or importance of …….. in …………..?
  • What would you have recommended if you had been ……?
6: Creation / Synthesis: Compiling information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions.
  • What might have happened if… ?
  • Can you propose an alternative interpretation to that of ……. . ?
  • Is there a marmite solution [1] here?


Use the question constructs to compose relevant questions for your own practice, include these in your example session plans.

Back to Engaging StudentsContinue to Preparing to look for critical thinking in the work of your students

Page tools