questions-250px.jpgAsking QuestionsFrom John Chaffee’s Thinking Critically, pp 48-49
An important part of thinking actively is the ability to ask appropriate and penetrating questions. Active learners explore the learning situations they are involved in with questions that enable them to understand the material or task at hand and then integrate the new understanding into their knowledge framework. In contrast, passive learners rarely ask questions.

Questions can be classified in terms of the ways that people organize and interpret information.
We can identify six such categories of questions:

Questions of Fact:

Seek to determine the basic information of the situation: who, what, when, where, how. Seek information that is relatively straightforward and objective.

Questions of Interpretation:

Seek to select and organize facts and ideas, discovering relationships among them.
Chronological Relationships: relating things in time sequence
Process Relationships: relating aspects of growth, development, or change
Comparison/Contrast Relationships: relating things in terms of their similar or different features
Causal Relationships: relating events in terms of the way some events are responsible for bringing about other events

Questions of Analysis:

Seek to separate an entire process or situation into its component parts and to understand the relation of these parts to the whole. Classify various elements, outline component structures, articulate possibilities, clarify reasoning.

Questions of Synthesis:

Combine ideas to form a new whole or come to a conclusion, making inferences about future events, creating solutions, and designating plans of action.

Questions of Evaluation:

Help us to make informed judgments and decisions by determining the relative value, truth, or reliability of things. The process of evaluation involves identifying the criteria or standards we are using and then determining to what extent the things in common meet those standards.

Questions of Application:

Help us take the knowledge or concepts we have gained in one situation and apply them to other situations.

Problem Solving: Asking Why

Asking the Right Questions

Who/ What/ When/ Where

What do you know?
What do you think you know?
What is the history? What sequence of events help you see what’s going on?
What can you compare it to that you know more about?
What causes are clear?
How do all the pieces go together to effect the whole?
What is the reliability of your information? Is there bias or prejudice?

What do you know?

  1. I know that I will die.
  2. I know that working hard will lead to a happy life.
  3. I know there is life on other planets. (2013 Update)
  4. I know the earth is flat.

When you say you know, you mean at least two things:
  1. Your belief is completely accurate.
  2. You have evidence and can explain the reasons to support your belief.

When you determine the believably or truth of something, ask:
  1. What do you know?
  2. What do you think you know?
  3. What do you need to know?

Asking Questions Using the Socratic Method

The Socratic Method is about asking questions. For more on its history and purpose, visit the Plato & Socrates page.

Crop Circles: How do we evaluate the truth of something