Chris Noessel > Masters Project: Free Range Learning Support> Asking good questions
Introduction  |  Process  |  The Service  |  Experience Prototypes  |  Conclusion  |  Appendices

Asking good questions


What is this need?
Asking questions enables learners to focus their interests into a single, addressable task. Questions also provide a means to check progress. According to a popular paper by Angelo V. Ciardiello, there are four types of questions learners can ask, based on four cognitive processes. He calls the categories Memory, Convergent, Divergent, and Evaluative. What constitutes a good question varies according to these categories.

  1. Memory
    These questions encourage naming, defining, identifying, designating, or answering yes/no.
    • signal words: list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where
    • signal words for yes/no: is, are, do, can
    • good questions will: be clear as to the expected type of answer, be answerable by the learner

  2. Convergent
    These questions encourage explaining, stating relationships, comparing, and contrasting
    • signal words: combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
    • good questions will: clearly identify subjects, specify the scope of a response

  3. Divergent
    These questions encourage predicting, hypothesizing, inferring, reconstructing
    • signal words: summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
    • signal structures: if...then..., how might..., can you create..., what are some possible consequences...
    • good questions will: evoke a multitude of answers and encourage creative thinking

  4. Evaluative
    These questions encourage valuing, judging, defending, justifying choices
    • signal words: assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize
    • signal structures: what do you think..., what is your opinion regarding...
    • good questions will: specify the scope of a response

A special note on Memory questions:
Answering Memory questions engages low-level cognitive skills and is useful only in assimilative learning tasks. Convergent, Divergent, and Evaluative questions are useful in accommodative and high-level cognitive skills and sharpen critical thinking skills. For this reason, when Cavalry experts encounter memory questions, they follow up the answer with higher order questions that relate.

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