3 Use Critical Questioning to Support Your Learning

Learning in an online environment requires you to move beyond simple memorization of course concepts. To gain knowledge that will support you in your growth as a lifelong learner and in your future career, you will want to interact with course concepts deeply and in ways that are personally relevant to you.

One way of picturing deeper learning is Bloom’s Taxonomy.

 

Remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, creating, evaluating
Image Credit: Rawia Inaim

 

The levels of Bloom’s taxonomy build upon each other. While you need to be able to remember key concepts, your courses will spend more time developing your ability to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create using this knowledge. As you encounter new concepts, you will want to use critical questioning to understand the concepts at all levels, moving from surface to deeper knowledge. The chart below includes some questions that might be relevant at each level.

 

Level Question Stems
Remember (knowledge recall) – retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory
  • What is the definition of…?
  • Who did…?
  • When did…occur?
  • How much/many…?
Understand (comprehension) – interpreting the meaning of information; being able to “translate” knowledge into one’s own words; linking new information to what you already know
  • What are types of…?
  • How does…function?
  • How does the process occur?
  • What are my own examples of…?
Apply – using what you know to do required tasks
  • What is a case study where this might apply?
  • How would I perform _____ task using this information?
  • What problems can I use this information to solve?
  • What does theory x predict will happen?
  • How does… affect or apply to…?
Analyze – taking things apart; dissecting; asking “why?”; seeing relationships and how things work
  • What is the relationship between…and…?
  • How is…similar to/different from…?
  • What is the best solution to the problem, conflict, issue?
  • Distinguish between ____ and ____
  • What hypothesis or theory explains this data or given information?
Evaluate – appraising, judging and critiquing the outcomes of any of the other levels
  •      Is…
    • Correct or incorrect? Why?
    • Effective or ineffective? Why?
    • Relevant or irrelevant? Why?
    • Logical or illogical? Why?
    • Applicable or not applicable? Why?
    • Proven or not proven? Why?
    • Ethical or unethical? Why?
    • What are the advantages or disadvantages of…? Why?
  • What is the best solution to the problem, conflict, issue? Why is it the best?
Create (synthesis) – putting things together; building on what you know to create something new; seeing new relationships or making new connections. [1] [2]
  • How does this new information change my understanding of ____.
  • Can I create a paragraph/journal/video/portfolio page that demonstrates how I integrate this information with my other knowledge?

One method for creating study questions or planning active learning activities is to move step-by-step through each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Begin with a few questions at the Remembering level. If you don’t yet know the technical language of the subject and what it means, it will be difficult for you to apply, evaluate, analyze, or be creative. Then, go deeper into your subject as you move through the levels.  Learning at university requires you to learn the basics of your discipline by remembering and understanding; however, you will spend much more of your time applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Here is an example of what this might look like.  What questions can you create for your topic?

Topic: Global Warming Remembering: What is the definition of global warming? Understanding: How does global warming occur? Applying: What will happen if global temperatures continue to rise? Analyzing: How can governments help to reduce the impacts of global warming? Evaluating: Has the automobile industry been successful in reducing carbon dioxide emissions? Creating: Can I come up with ways to reduce the impact of global warming? What is the
Image Credit: Rawia Inaim

Try It!

Create Study Questions Using Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy

Pick a subject area in which you are working. For each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy on this page:

  • Develop a question and answer it to show that you can think about the material at that level.  Use the example questions on the handout above as a guide.
  • Think about how your questions would allow you to assess how much you know and what level you are working at.

Download a printable worksheet to complete this activity.

Level Question
Remembering Remembering and Recalling information.

My question(s):

Understanding Understanding Explaining ideas or concepts.

My question(s):

Applying Applying information in a 
familiar situationMy question(s):
Analyzing Analyzing by breaking information into parts to explore relationships.

My question(s):

Evaluating Justifying a decision or course of action.

My question(s):

Creating Generating new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things.

My question(s):

Media Attributions


  1. Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.
  2. Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green; Salustri, F. (2015). Four levels of questions. Retrieved April 23, 2018, from http://deseng.ryerson.ca/dokuwiki/design:four_levels_of_questions.

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