Encourage students’ higher order questioning

Move questioning beyond recall and towards evaluation and analysis

In our travels through elementary and high schools we've been struck by one thing: the vast majority of questioning comes from educators and is based around recall. Yet we know that higher order thinking comes from being asked - and asking - higher order questions.

​The Why

There is a recognised challenge with moving students beyond regurgitation of the facts around a subject to more creative or independent thought about those ideas. The perception is that students need to learn the 'stuff' first, and then, if there is time, attempt some higher order thinking later.

The Experiment

At Scotland's historic sites, school visits are traditionally dominated by students being 'fed' information and asked lower order questions on the visit or back at school about what they can recall. We are working with learning officers at Stirling Castle to change that, quickly getting students to ask higher order analysis and evaluation questions of what information they already know, as a means to open up discussions into new content. The act of using simple tools to set up higher order discussions has not only helped students ask better questions, but means learning officers are able to see more engaged learners, gaining more from their visit and having a deeper understanding of the wider context of a historical site within history itself.

Your Next Steps

  • Consider purchasing Thinking Cubes, or make up your own using a dice template and question starters from this download.
  • Ask students to use lower order Remembering Question starters to ascertain what they already know on a subject.
  • Ask students to use Analysing and Evaluating question starters to prompt higher order areas for their own enquiry.
  • Ask students to use Applying and Creating Question starters to prompt higher order thinking that might begin to generate ideas to show their learning.
  • Tom Barrett has shared some longer-form ideas on protecting the curiosity of our learners in his book, Can Computers Keep Secrets.
Ewan McIntosh
March 05, 2013