10 Ways To Ask Facilitative Questions: Making Thinking Visible

Nov 25, 2023 | Inquiry

10 Ways To Ask Facilitative Questions: Making Thinking Visible

by Drew Perkins, Director of ThoughtStretchers Education

Asking “What makes you say that?” is a great way to encourage someone to elaborate on their thoughts or provide more information. It’s one of the hallmarks of the work of the folks at Harvard’s Visible Thinking | Project Zero of which we’re big fans. ‘Making Thinking Visible’ leverages and fosters a mindset of curiosity and helps shift from a ‘push teaching’ dynamic to one that includes more ‘pull teaching‘.

Part of the work in our PBL Workshops and Creating a Culture of Inquiry Workshops entails helping teachers grow their facilitative questioning skills because it helps get what’s in students’ heads out and visible so we can reinforce it, build on it, or correct it. These are essential pieces of the scaffolding and assessment process as we look to support student learning through responsive teaching.

10 Versions of Facilitative Questions

Using some version of the question, “What makes you say that?” is central to the practice of facilitative questioning, and here are some alternative versions that you can use in different contexts:

  1. Why do you think that is the case?
  2. Can you share the reasons behind your statement?
  3. What led you to that conclusion?
  4. How did you arrive at that perspective?
  5. Could you expand on your reasoning?
  6. What’s the basis for your opinion?
  7. In what way did you come to that understanding?
  8. Can you give me more details on your thinking?
  9. What factors influenced your thinking on this?
  10. I’m interested in hearing more about why you believe that.

When teachers regularly use these kinds of questions in their practice they help bring clarity to what students are thinking. This type of formative assessment is invaluable because it helps teachers know how to respond and where to go next. In addition, it builds inquiry skills and mindsets, through modeling and practice, that will better prepare students for the modern world.


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