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Critical thinking is the ability to analyze and effectively break down an issue in order to make a decision or find a solution. At the heart of critical thinking is the ability to formulate deep, different, and effective questions. For effective questioning, start by holding your hypotheses loosely. Be willing to fundamentally reconsider your initial conclusions — and do so without defensiveness. Second, listen more than you talk through active listening. Third, leave your queries open-ended, and avoid yes-or-no questions. Fourth, consider the counterintuitive to avoid falling into groupthink. Fifth, take the time to stew in a problem, rather than making decisions unnecessarily quickly. Last, ask thoughtful, even difficult, follow-ups.


Access:  Critical Thinking Is About Asking Better Questions

Effective questioning

Effective questioning involves all students and engages students in thinking for themselves.

Good questioning:

  • reinforces and revisits learning objectives/goals
  • shows connections between previous and new learning
  • gives the teacher immediate feedback on students’ understanding, which they can then use to modify their teaching
  • includes ‘staging’ questions to draw students towards key understanding or to increase the level of challenge in a lesson as it proceeds
  • helps students develop their thinking from the lower order concrete and factual recall type to the higher order analytical, conceptual and evaluative which promote deeper understanding
  • promotes justification and reasoning
  • encourages students to speculate and hypothesise
  • can support students to draw inferences
  • keeps students focussed on the salient elements in a lesson and not on extraneous matters
  • encourages students to ask as well as to ‘receive’ questions
  • encourages students to listen and respond to each other as well as to the teacher
  • creates an atmosphere of trust where students’ opinions and ideas are valued and where teacher praise can be connected directly to their responses.

Access:  Effective Questioning

Asking the right probing questions is key to getting the right answers. So take a look at some  effective questioning techniques.

Access: Practical Tips for Effective Questioning and Probing

Effective questioning sessions in classroom require advance preparation. While some instructors may be skilled in extemporaneous questioning, many find that such questions have phrasing problems, are not organized in a logical sequence, or do not require students to use the desired thinking skills.

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MindTools offers techniques to ask open and closed questions.

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TeacherTools offer questioning techniques based on Bloom's Taxonomy.

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This guide provides the strengths and weaknesses of questions in the classroom. 

Access:  The Right Way to Ask Questions in the Classroom

Questions are an integral part of classroom life and essential to every teacher’s pedagogical repertoire. They are also one of the elements of effective formative assessment (Black et al., 2003). Questioning serves many purposes: it engages students in the learning process and provides opportunities for students to ask questions themselves. It challenges levels of thinking and informs whether students are ready to progress with their learning. Questions that probe for deeper meaning foster critical thinking skills and higher-order capabilities such as problem solving, and encourage the types of flexible learners and critical thinkers needed in the 21st century.

Access:  Skillful Questioning:  The Beating Heart of Good Pedagogy

A summary of the six types of Socratic questioning is provided as are sample questions.

Access: Socratic Questioning


Asking questions can help you learn more about other people, different ideas and the world around you. Whether you're a teacher, hiring manager, customer service representative, team leader or counselor, understanding how to use different types of questioning techniques can help you advance throughout your career. If you're interested in improving your communication skills, then you may benefit from learning about some questioning techniques you can try in your interactions with others.

In this article, we discuss why it's important to ask questions effectively, explore 10 popular questioning techniques and share tips to help you develop this skill.


Access:  10 Effective Questioning Techniques (With Tips)

George Couros, the author of "The Innovator's Mindset," "Innovate Inside the Box," and "Because of a Teacher!" shares his insight on asking better questions.

Access:  Three Important Factors in Asking Better Questions

This page was last updated: 12/19/23