“Does anyone have any questions?” is a question often asked in a Zoom meeting in the networking groups I attend as part of running my business.
Tall Tartan Talks here … Questioning fascinates me. How does skilled questioning promote learning progress?
What is a good question?
Questioning refers to the act of asking questions to acquire information, stimulate thinking, or prompt discussion. It is an essential tool for teaching, learning, and critical thinking. Effective questioning can engage learners, encourage reflection, and deepen understanding.
When I taught in the classroom, it was vital to ask the children a range of questions to widen and deepen their understanding, whether that was in English comprehension, Maths mastery, Science investigation, and so on. There were eagerly inquisitive children who asked cracking questions. My response when there was an interruption from an over-enthusiastic learner waving their hand wildly in the air was: “Hold that thought!”
Encouraging them to justify their answer further by asking “Because?” meant they didn’t just ‘parrot’ what the child next to them said. It prompted them to give their own explanation.
It thrilled me when a learner’s ‘lightbulb’ lit up – and new thinking progress was made.
When I wrote worksheets for teaching curriculum subjects, Bloom’s Taxonomy, developed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, was the framework of questioning used to ensure all levels of cognitive complexity were addressed.
It provides a structure to design and assess learning experiences. Bloom’s Taxonomy is often represented as a hierarchical model with six levels, each representing a different cognitive process.
Not all levels are addressed in all activities (that would be exhausting!) but aiming for a balance of question types in a range of subjects over a week ensures maximum opportunities for learning.
- Remember: This level involves recalling or recognising information. Questions at this level focus on factual knowledge and require learners to retrieve information from memory. Example questions: Who…? What…?
- Understand: This level involves demonstrating comprehension and interpreting information. Questions at this level aim to check if learners can explain ideas, concepts, or principles in their own words. Example question: What is the main idea of the paragraph you just read.
- Apply: This level involves using knowledge or skills in new situations. Questions at this level require learners to apply what they have learned to solve problems or complete tasks. Example question: How would you demonstrate …?
- Analyse: This level involves breaking down information into parts and understanding the relationships between them. Questions at this level focus on examining patterns, identifying causes and effects, or making connections. Example question: How can you sort the different parts?
- Evaluate: This level involves making judgements or assessments based on criteria and evidence. Questions at this level require learners to analyse information, consider different perspectives, and form opinions. Example question: What are the implications of …?
- Create: This level involves generating new ideas, products, or solutions. Questions at this level encourage learners to think creatively, design, and produce original work. Example question: How would you design …?
Bloom’s Taxonomy encourages higher-order thinking skills and helps learners develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
What is a good question?
Asking a good question means inquiring clearly in a way that is relevant, specific, and well-structured to gain informative and valuable responses. It involves the art of effectively conveying your curiosity or seeking information from others in a way that maximizes the chances of getting a meaningful answer.
Characteristics of a good question
- Clarity: A good question is easy to understand and free from ambiguity. It should be straightforward and unambiguous, leaving little room for misinterpretation.
- Relevance: The question should be pertinent to the context or topic at hand. It should address the specific issue you want to explore.
- Specificity: Good questions are specific and focused, targeting particular aspects of the subject matter rather than being overly broad or vague.
- Purpose: A good question has a clear purpose or objective. It should convey what you hope to achieve by asking it, whether it’s gaining knowledge or solving a problem.
- Open-endedness: Open-ended questions allow for more in-depth and thoughtful responses. They encourage the person answering to provide detailed and comprehensive information rather than simple yes/no answers.
- Conciseness: A well-phrased question is concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary jargon, complexity, or unnecessary information that could confuse.
- Respectful and non-leading: Ensure that your question is respectful and unbiased. Avoid leading the respondent towards a particular answer or expressing judgement in the question itself.
- Thoughtfulness: Take a moment to consider if the question has already been answered or if it can be easily researched elsewhere before asking.
- Context-awareness: Consider the background and knowledge level of the person you’re asking the question. Adapt the question complexity and terminology accordingly.
- Follow-up potential: Ask a question that encourages follow-up discussion or elaboration, allowing for a deeper exploration of the subject matter.
By asking good questions, you demonstrate a genuine interest in learning and engage in constructive conversations. This can lead to valuable insights, improved understanding, and a more fruitful exchange of ideas.
Questions arising in business
Asking clients questions
Having trained first as a teacher then as a proofreader when I left the classroom after 30 years, I have become much better at asking questions, asking the text questions, and fact-checking. Not just accepting that the text is correct.
I am most likely to ask questions when I want clarity with a freelance proofreading job that I have been offered by a publisher. I used to worry I was asking a stupid question. But it’s fine to check if a detail in the brief is unclear.
More often than not, the client would answer my question promptly with reassurance. Phew!
Clients asking questions
These days half of my clients are self-publishing, independent (indie) authors. They have many questions, especially if they are looking to publish their first children’s book (one of my specialisms).
I have written several blog posts for authors in answer to their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to reassure them about the process involved. The most commonly asked question is, “How do I self-publish?” If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll know someone who does …
So my question to you is, are you inquisitive and curious? What do you want to find out? How will you do this?
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Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction and children’s books.
- Interested in my teaching experience over 30 years? Read my blog post series on education starting with Why I Tutor.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy: