an electronic publication of Staff Development - contributions are welcome
Thoughtful Questions

source: M.B. Rowe, Teaching Science as Continuous Inquiry
(McGraw Hill, New York), 1978

"Teaching Tips Collection"


thoughtful Questions

effective ways to formulate questions that foster engagement and confidence


What does it mean to think? Some people would like to be
able to think better, or, more usually, want other people's
thinking to improve. But research shows that everyone is
capable of thinking. The problem is to stop teachers from
precluding the chance for it to happen. The right kind of
questions open the door to student's participation. The right
questions focus the learner's attention upon applying their
current understanding to the content or problem. The right
questions are discoverable, that is, have follow-up avenues
that a teacher can follow to lead a student to find an adequate
answer using resources available (Socratic). Each success on
one of these problems is a lesson to the learner that he or she
knows how to think. (And each failure, a lesson in the
opposite.) Note that none of these tutorial questions asks for
recall of facts or information (didactic questions).

Discoverable Tutorial Questions
These eleven question formulations meet the criteria of being
both perceptually based and discoverable. The responses to
these questions lie in the shared experience of the teacher and
the learner (presently or shared past), so all learners, who may
not at first answer acceptably, can be led back to available
evidence to find adequate answers.

What did you see? What happened? What is the
difference between.....?
What was interesting? What was surprising?
What else does it remind you of? What else does it look
Common Purpose:
What is the purpose of.....? What is the usual function
How does one normally do......? How was this done?
What is the normal (non creative) next step?
What else could .....? How could we......? If we didn't
have, or couldn't use, ......, what could........?
What will happen next? What will you see? What will
be the effect?
How can you tell? What evidence led you to.....?
Why is it that way? What is the reason for it?
What is the same about ....... and ......? What could you
generalize from these events? What principle is
What does ...... mean? Define the word ...........

Wait Time (12)
After posing one of these tutorials, learners need at least 5
seconds in order to process it and begin the formulation of an