What did you ask? Driving Questions for Critical Thinking

Driving questions guide curriculum and steer student learning. As teachers, we need to step back and think about the types of questions that we ask in our classroom. Do our questions “elicit student reflection and challenge deeper student engagement?” (Danielson, 1996) Or are the questions lower level questions that require students to recite and recall basic knowledge and information? Carefully crafted questions synthesize, evaluate, and require students to reflect on their understanding.

Driving Questions should be:

  • Provocative – Interesting to hold students’ attention and challenging to inspire students to go beyond the surface
  • Open-ended – Has more than one answer and requires students to use their higher order thinking skills and synthesis of different types of information
  • Complex & Challenging – Encourages students to examine ideas new to them, encourages questioning and risk taking
  • Linked to the core of what you want students to learn and consistent with standards

(From 8 Essential For Project Based Learning by John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller)

Question Starters are effective for students and teachers. Most students are familiar with the question words who, what, where, when, why, and how. To help students begin to formulate higher level questions, extend the stems that initiate and focus the inquiry. Examples include:

  • What caused…?
  • What are the characteristics of…?
  • What if…?
  • What does the author mean when…?
  • Would you agree that…?
  • Would it be better if…?

In my quest to design thick, text dependent, driving questions I created a reading challenge for my students that builds on Bloom’s Taxonomy questioning. Students worked with partners during class time to answer the questions about their reading of dystopian fiction.  Students earned Classcraft Game points for all the questions they answered correctly with depth and textual evidence.








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One thought on “What did you ask? Driving Questions for Critical Thinking

  1. bjneary says:

    Love this post, loved Unwind, and students will benefit & enjoy using this graphic for deep questions & critical thinking.

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