5 Types Of Questions For Cultures Of Thinking

Jan 9, 2024 | Inquiry

5 Types Of Questions For Cultures Of Thinking

by Drew Perkins, Director of ThoughtStretchers Education

Regardless of your intent and desired learning outcomes, questions are a vital tool in a teacher’s toolkit. How well you use questions generally depends on your expertise with inquiry and part of that is understanding the different types of questions.

One of our favorite ways to think about teaching and learning is through the work of the Worldwide Cultures of Thinking project and we frequently use their thinking routines in our project-based learning and inquiry workshops.

In the now-retired, Harvard Project Zero Senior Research Associate Ron Ritchhart’s book, Cultures of Thinking in Action, he identifies 5 types of questions teachers ask. This typology of question types is a useful lens through which to examine your teaching in terms of how much time you’re investing in which ones and how well-aligned they are with your intended outcomes.

5 Types of Questions

1. Review Questions

These types of questions are used to recall and review knowledge and information. This is an important part of the scaffolding and assessment process as principles of direct instruction and should not be overlooked.

2. Procedural Questions

These types of questions help teachers manage their classes and the processes within their teaching. They include goals such as clarifications, checking for attention, and checklist completion.

3. Constructive Questions

These types of questions help build an understanding of important knowledge and concepts. They include asking students how ideas or concepts are connected, evaluating their validity, or how others with different viewpoints and experiences might think about them.

4. Generative Questions

These types of questions ask students to explore and perhaps problem-solve. They tend to be open-ended, broad, and perhaps unanswerable. In project-based learning, the driving question should be generative, and ideally, generative questions are important to students, not just teachers.

5. Facilitative Questions

These types of questions are the lifeblood of making thinking visible. They tend to be a version of ‘What makes you say that?’ and push student thinking by asking for evidence, reasoning, and elaboration.

Which Should You Use?

None of these types are inherently better than another but if you’re looking to move student thinking to deeper learning, you’ll want to be less focused on the review and procedural questions. Quality inquiry teaching and learning includes intentional appropriate scaffolding that balances instruction and assessment between the more didactic approach and inquiry and collaborative exercises and activities.

The intuitive moves of an effective inquiry teacher, one who is looking to create the culture of inquiry we think is so important are ones that make thinking visible and know when to push and pull with more information or questions. Effective questioning takes practice and a conceptual understanding but is crucial in developing students who are better prepared for the modern world.


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