The goal of classroom questioning is not to determine whether students have learned something tests, quizzes, and exams, but rather to guide students to help them learn necessary information and material. Questions should be used to teach students rather than to just test students!
Teachers frequently spend a great deal of classroom time testing students through questions. In fact, observations of teachers at all levels of education reveal that most spend more than 90 percent of their instructional time testing students (through questioning). And most of the questions teachers ask are typically factual questions that rely on short-term memory.
Although questions are widely used and serve many functions, teachers tend to overuse factual questions such as “What is the capital of California?” Not surprising, many teachers ask upward of 400 questions each and every school day. And approximately 80 percent of all the questions teachers ask tend to be factual, literal, or knowledge-based questions. The result is a classroom in which there is little creative thinking taking place.
It’s been my experience that one all-important factor is key in the successful classroom: students tend to read and think based on the kinds of questions they anticipate receiving from the teacher. If students are constantly bombarded with questions that require only low levels of intellectual involvement (or no involvement whatsoever), they will tend to think accordingly. Conversely, students who are given questions based on higher levels of thinking will tend to think more creatively and divergently.
Many years ago, an educator named Benjamin Bloom developed a classification system we now refer to as Bloom’s Taxonomy to assist teachers in recognizing their various levels of question-asking (among other things). The system contains six levels, which are arranged in hierarchical form, moving from the lowest level of cognition (thinking) to the highest level of cognition (or from the least complex to the most complex):