Questions to develop higher order thinking

I have just been watching a video here that’s got me thinking about how to question pupils to get them to think more actively and deeply about the things we are learning in class. We’ve all been told about using open-ended questions where we can rather than closed, but this takes the types of questions to an extra level.

The video refers to a couple of ways of thinking about questioning: Bloom’s Taxonomy and Dalton’s Taxonomy, with ways of applying both to an example of the Three Little Pigs story. So, in a nutshell:

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy breaks questions down into six types by the type of thinking they require:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

where knowledge, comprehension and application are the lower levels of questioning/thinking and analysis, synthesis and evaluation are the higher levels of questioning/thinking. Clearly, we should be trying to engage our most able pupils with the higher level questions/thinking. What this means in more depth is broken down in this table with they types the questions that fall into each category:




¨ What

¨ When

¨ Who

¨ Define

¨ Distinguish

¨ Identify

¨ List

¨ Name

¨ Recall

¨ Reorganise

¨ Show

¨ State

¨ Write

¨ Which

¨ Indicate

¨ Tell How


¨ Compare

¨ Conclude

¨ Contrast

¨ Demonstrate

¨ Predict

¨ Reorder

¨ Which

¨ Distinguish

¨ Estimate

¨ Explain

¨ Extend

¨ Extrapolate

¨ Rephrase

¨ Inform

¨ What

¨ Fill In

¨ Give an example of

¨ Hypothesise

¨ Illustrate

¨ Relate

¨ Tell in your own words


¨ Apply

¨ Develop

¨ Test

¨ Consider

¨ Build

¨ Plan

¨ Choose

¨ How would

¨ Construct

¨ Solve

¨ Show your work

¨ Tell us

¨ Demonstrate

¨ Indicate

¨ Check out


¨ Analysis

¨ Categorize

¨ Describe

¨ Classify

¨ Compare

¨ Discriminate

¨ Distinguish

¨ Recognize

¨ Support your

¨ Indicate the

¨ Relate

¨ Explain

¨ What assumption

¨ What do you


¨ Write

¨ Think of a way

¨ Create

¨ Propose a plan

¨ Put together

¨ What would be

¨ Suggest

¨ How

¨ Develop

¨ Make up

¨ What conclusion

¨ What major hypothesis

¨ Plan

¨ Formulate a solution

¨ Synthesize

¨ Derive


¨ What is

¨ Choose

¨ Evaluate

¨ Decide

¨ Judge

¨ Check the

¨ Select

¨ Which would you consider

¨ Defend

¨ Check

¨ What is most appropriate

¨ Indicate

As a teacher we should endeavour to ask questions from the higher order skills more frequently.

Dalton’s Taxonomy

Dalton categorises questions into seven types:

  • Quantity questions
  • Change questions
  • Prediction questions
  • Points of view questions
  • Personal involvement questions
  • Comparative association questions
  • Valuing questions
Examples for each question type include:

Quantity – How long…? How many…? What is the greatest time…?
Change – Assume something happens in this scene. How would someone react?
Prediction – How might the story end?
Points of view – Why is somebody enjoying their holiday?
Personal involvement – how would you feel…?
Comparative association – Compare this experience with another.
Valuing – What impact would it have…?

(Taken from here)

Other than this I am struggling to find anything more on Dalton’s Taxonomy, and have to say that Bloom’s seems slightly more logical to my way of thinking but that does not mean it is so for everybody.

Socratic Questioning

This was a method developed by Richard Paul and is not a hierarchical method of questioning like Bloom’s, but one which is meant to lead on from one question to another.
  • Questions of clarification
  • Probing assumptions
  • Probing reasons and evidence
  • Probing viewpoint and perspective
  • Probing implications and consequences
  • Questions about the question
There are examples for each category here. I think all categories for this method of sorting develop higher order thinking but wonder if simpler questions (ie ones that require knowledge to answer) are left out from this model.

To summarise…

I have only looked at three models for questioning here, and this is by all means not exhaustive. I’m sure it is possible to write a whole thesis on this stuff (and maybe someday I will) but I’m not sure how that would benefit my pupils right now. The three models all have a different way for classifying question types and it is the ability to pick out what is useful from each to use in the classroom that is most useful. I like the table about Bloom’s that makes it easier to compose questions that develop higher order thinking; I like the socratic way of questioning for its more philosophical style. I am now wondering how I can use them together to help inform my planning and wondering whether I can find enough of an overlap between them to formulate something meaningful using the best bits from them all.
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