With critical thinking comes questions, questions, and more questions. As we apply such skills in our everyday lives, be it for academic purposes or not, the quality of questions we ask plays a significant role in their continuing development. In other words, the better the questions we ask, the better the results that we receive.
The following question strategies cover self-directed learning and learning reflections, as well as critical thinking questions that can be used in any content area. We’ll begin, however, by looking at a 5-step process for asking the most meaningful questions possible.
5 Steps to Asking Good Questions
Asking good questions is a cornerstone of learning and living, and of critical thinking. So much of our success in life depends on asking the right questions. But how do we actually do it? It’s simple if you have a process, like the one below.
This framework goes hand in hand with taking ownership of learning. Each stage has guiding questions attached to it, and are things students can consider to help them ask good questions:
Focus: What specifically do I want to know? What information am I missing? Is this more than a simple YES or NO question? Am I going for deeper knowledge?
Purpose: Why am I asking this? Do I want to gather facts or opinions? Do I need simple clarification? Do I want to offer a different perspective?
Intent: How do I want people to respond? Do I want the answer to be of help to others? Am I asking to start an argument or open a discussion? Is the question superficial and not really useful or important? Am I asking out of frustration or curiosity? Do I really care about the answer? Am I willing to show respect/deference to the person I’m asking?
Framing: Am I using easily understandable terms and wording? Is my question neutral or does it contain bias or opinion? Is it too long or too short? Does it contain the focus of what I want to know? Does the question focus on only one thing? Is it muddled with other inquiries that don’t belong?
Follow-up: Do I have any more specific questions to add? Will the person I’m asking be available for other questions if need be? If I still don’t have the answer I need, what’s my plan? What can I do if I still don’t understand?
This free poster features these 5 categories for developing good questions, with all the exploratory points for each one included.
15 Reflective Questions Every Learner Can Use
Successfully debriefing learning means having solid and meaningful reflective questions to use. No matter what you’re teaching, every learner can benefit from asking reflective questions at the end of their journey. We have a list of 15 here that are pretty much the only ones they’ll ever need.
- Define some of your most challenging moments. What made them so?
- Define some of your most powerful learning moments. What made them so?
- What would you say is the most important thing you learned personally? As a team?
- When did you realize that you had come up with your final best solution?
- How do you feel your solution relates to real-world situations and problems?
- What do you feel most got in the way of your progress, if anything?
- How well did you and your team communicate overall?
- What were some things your teammates did that helped you to learn or overcome an obstacle?
- How did you help others during this process?
- Were your milestones and goals mostly met, and how much did you deviate from them if any?
- What did you discover as being your greatest strengths? Your biggest weaknesses?
- What would you do differently if you were to approach the same problem again?
- What would you do differently from a personal standpoint the next time you work with the same group or a different one?
- How can you better support and encourage your teammates on future projects?
- How will you use what you’ve learned in the future?
The Critical Thinking Skills Cheatsheet
Our most popular resource, the Critical Thinking Skills Cheatsheet, contains almost 50 critical thinking questions students can use for practically any content area. It includes question categories for Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Each section has eight questions that begin with their corresponding word.
These questions are meant to be versatile and broad, and applicable to a range of topics. They’re also great potential conversation starters and fillers. You can download a free 11″ x 17″ copy of this poster by clicking on the image below.