Critical Thinking Questions Students Should Be Able to Ask

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December 18, 2014
As I argued in an earlier post titled ”Critical Thinking Questions Based on Bloom's Taxonomy”, questioning is the key to critical thinking and through questions students  get to explore the deep layers of meanings that would otherwise go unnoticed. Of course not all questions have this analytical ability. For instance, closed questions tend to limit the thinking choices available for students. The same with questions that promote factual recalling. Questions that emphasize the mechanical on the analytical are out of the list.

Source: Learning Commons

Critical thinking requires a special set of questions that have the ability to activate higher order thinking skills and therefore enable students to evaluate, synthesize, apply, analyze and interpret information. These questions are usually open in nature and tend to foster divergent thinking. Prince George’s County provides a very good explanation of each of these kinds of questions with examples of each category. Here is what they wrote about them :

1- Application Questions:These questions ask students to apply essential knowledge to new settings and contexts. For example:
  •  How could you apply these grammar and usage principles to your essay?
  •  How could you demonstrate the use of this concept? 
  • How would you illustrate this process in action? 
  • What can we generalize from these facts?
2-Analytical Questions:These questions ask students to dissect key information and analyze essential concepts themes, and processes. For example:
  •  How are these characters alike and different? 
  • What is an analogy that might represent this situation? 
  • How would you classify these literary works? 
  • What are the major elements that comprise this sequence of events?
  •  What are the major causes of this situation?
3- Synthesis Questions:These questions require students to formulate a holistic summary of key ideas, make inferences, or create new scenarios. For example:
  • What would you hypothesize about these unusual events? 
  • What do you infer from her statements?
  •  Based upon these facts, what predictions would you make?
  •  How do you imagine the space ship would look? 
  • What do you estimate will be the costs for the project? 
  • How might you invent a solution to this ecological problem?
4- Interpretive Questions:These are open-ended questions that require students to formulate opinions in response to ideas presented in a print or non-print (e.g., art work, audio-visual) medium. Students must support their opinions with direct textual evidence. For example:
  •  What does Frost mean when he says: "I have miles to go before I sleep?" 
  • Why does the photographer emphasize only his subject's eyes?
5- Evaluative Questions:These questions require students to formulate and justify judgments and criticisms based upon clearly-articulated evaluative criteria. For example:
  • Why did you decide to choose that course of action? 
  • How would you rank these choices? 
  • How might you defend that character's actions? 
  • How would you verify that conclusion? 
  • What is your critique of that work of art?

Other interesting links on this topic: