San Diego County Office of Education

Questioning Strategies

questioning_picWhat are questioning strategies?

Teachers pose questions to students in order to engage them and elicit deeper-level thinking about the subject under discussion. 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. Therefore, 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.

Mortimer Adler proposes that there are three types of questions: fact (what does the author say?), interpretation (what does the author mean?), and evaluation (is it true?).

What to consider when differentiating instruction

Questioning techniques can be used to differentiate instruction in the moment. When the teacher is very familiar with each student's background, learning style, interests, and readiness level, questions can be adapted to fit individual needs for academic development. Teachers use questions to stimulate thinking about a concept and challenge students to attend to higher levels of thinking appropriate to the content and learning outcomes. Instructional pacing can be accelerated during questioning related to facts and decelerated for more complex material and open-ended questions. Teachers can allow more wait time for student responses for more meaningful learning.

Costa's Three Levels of Questions (application/pdf)
Model questioning strategies with students, making use of this resource that provides further description and appropriate examples.

Types of Questions Based on Bloom's Taxonomy (application/pdf)
Vary the kinds of questions you ask students and encourage them to use higher order thinking skills, both in responding to and asking questions.


Bloom's Taxonomy (outside link)
A brief guide to Bloom's Taxonomy, the historic model for classifying forms and levels of learning, provides visual representations and more recent versions as well as presents models for other domains of learning.

Northwest Regional Education Laboratory: Classroom Questioning (outside link)
This issue of the School Improvement Research Series presents an in-depth overview of research on using questioning techniques in instruction and their impact on student outcomes.


Adler, M. (1982). The Paideia proposal: An educational manifesto. New York: MacMillan.

Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.

Costa, A. (Ed.). (1985). Developing minds: A resource book for teaching thinking. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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