five basic types of questions:
Convergent; Divergent; Evaluative; and Combination
The art of asking
questions is one of the basic skills of good teaching. Socrates believed that
knowledge and awareness were an intrinsic part of each learner. Thus, in
exercising the craft of good teaching an educator must reach into the learner's
hidden levels of knowing and awareness in order to help the learner reach new
levels of thinking.
Through the art of
thoughtful questioning teachers can extract not only factual information, but
aid learners in: connecting concepts, making inferences, increasing awareness,
encouraging creative and imaginative thought, aiding critical thinking
processes, and generally helping learners explore deeper levels of knowing,
thinking, and understanding.
As you examine the
categories below, reflect on your own educational experiences and see if you can
ascertain which types of questions were used most often by different teachers.
Hone your questioning skills by practicing asking different types of questions,
and try to monitor your teaching so that you include varied levels of
questioning skills. Specifically in the area of Socratic questioning techniques,
there are a number of sites on the Web which might prove helpful. Simply use Socratic-
questioning as a descriptor. Don't forget to hyphenate the term.
- Soliciting reasonably simple, straight forward answers based on obvious facts
or awareness. These are usually at the lowest level of cognitive or affective
processes and answers are frequently either right or wrong.
What is the name the Shakespeare play about the Prince of Denmark?
2. Convergent -
Answers to these types of questions are usually within a very finite range of
acceptable accuracy. These may be at several different levels of cognition --
comprehension, application, analysis, or ones where the answerer makes
inferences or conjectures based on personal awareness, or on material read,
presented or known.
reflecting over the entirety of the play Hamlet, what were the main reasons
why Ophelia went mad? (This is not specifically stated in one direct
statement in the text of Hamlet. Here the reader must make simple inferences
as to why she committed suicide.)
3. Divergent -
These questions allow students to explore different avenues and create many
different variations and alternative answers or scenarios. Correctness may be
based on logical projections, may be contextual, or arrived at through basic
knowledge, conjecture, inference, projection, creation, intuition, or
imagination. These types of questions often require students to analyze,
synthesize, or evaluate a knowledge base and then project or predict different
divergent questions may be aided by higher levels of
affective functions. Answers to these types of questions generally fall into a
wide range of acceptability. Often correctness is determined subjectively based
on the possibility or probability. Frequently the intention of these types of
is to stimulate imaginative and creative thought, or investigate cause and
effect relationships, or provoke deeper thought or extensive investigations.
And, one needs to be prepared for the fact that there may not be right or
definitely correct answers to these questions.
Divergent questions may also
serve as larger contexts for directing inquiries, and as such may become what
are know as "essential" questions that frame the content of an entire course.
In the love relationship of Hamlet and Ophelia, what might have happened to
their relationship and their lives if Hamlet had not been so obsessed with
the revenge of his father's death?
Example of a divergent question that is also essential and divergent:
Like many authors throughout time, Shakespeare dwells partly on the
pain of love in Hamlet. Why is painful love so often intertwined with good
literature. What is its never ending appeal to readers?
4. Evaluative -
These types of questions usually require sophisticated levels of
and/or emotional judgment. In attempting to answer evaluative
students may be combining multiple logical and/or affective thinking
process, or comparative frameworks. Often an answer is analyzed
levels and from different perspectives before the answerer arrives at
synthesized information or conclusions.
What are the similarities and differences between the deaths of Ophelia when
compared to that of Juliet?
b. What are the
similarities and differences between Roman gladiatorial games and modern
c. Why and how might
the concept of Piagetian schema be related to the concepts presented in
Jungian personality theory, and why might this be important to consider in
teaching and learning?
- These are questions that blend any combination of the above.
More details and suggestions on this topic see -
This rough magic by Daniel Lindley
There are other authors who
talk about the art of asking questions. One is H. Lynn Erickson and she talks
about 3 types of questions as being factual, conceptual, and provocative.
look at the listing above, it should become
apparent that these are the same types of
categories. Erickson's factual are
still the ones that are easily answered with
definitive, and comparatively simple
answers. These are the questions you find on
the show Jeopardy. Unfortunately they
are also too common in schools and on tests.
conceptual questions might be ones that
are convergent, divergent, or evaluative in
construction -- ones that delve deeper and
require more sophisticated levels of
cognitive processing and thinking.
provocative ones are ones that entice
and ones cannot be answered with easy
answers. They are questions can be used to
motivate and frame content or are essential
questions. In the initial categorization
above they would be either complex divergent
questions or more sophisticated combination
questions like divergent/evaluative ones.
H. L. (2007) Concept-based curriculum and
instruction for the thinking classroom.
Thousand Oaks, Corwin Press.
to other sites on questioning
questions - Based on Bloom's Taxonomy