7 Use Deep Questioning to Promote Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

In Level One Tutor Training we define critical thinking as the process we use to reflect on, access and judge the assumptions underlying our own and others ideas and actions. This includes: “the thinker’s dispositions and orientations; a range of specific analytical, evaluative, and problem-solving skills; contextual influences; use of multiple perspectives; awareness of one’s own assumptions; capacities for metacognition; or a specific set of thinking processes or tasks” (Stassen, Herrington, Henderson, 2011).

 Deep Questioning

Questioning is learning-centered approach that challenges a person to develop their critical thinking skills and engage in analytic discussion which leads to independent learning and thinking. This questioning can be used to explore ideas, to get to the root of things, to uncover assumptions, and to analyze complex concepts. The questions usually focus on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.

This type of questioning is at the heart of critical thinking and the following questions can be used by tutors to help draw information from their tutees. These are adapted from R.W. Paul’s six types of Socratic questions:

1. Questions for clarification:  

Why do you say that?

What do you mean by…?

How does this relate to our discussion?


2. Questions that probe assumptions:  

What could we assume instead?

How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?


3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:  

What would be an example?

What is….analogous to?

What do you think causes to happen…? Why?


4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:  

What would be an alternative?

What is another way to look at it?

Why is the best?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?

How are…and …similar?

What is a counterargument for…?


5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:  

What generalizations can you make?

What are the consequences of that assumption?

What are you implying?

How does…affect…?

How does…tie in with what we learned before?


6. Questions about the question:  

What was the point of this question?

Why do you think I asked this question?

What does…mean?

How does…apply to everyday life?


 (Adapted from: http://www.umich.edu/~elements/probsolv/strategy/cthinking.htm )

This critical thinking tool focuses on open-ended questions with the goal of bringing a person to realize an answer for themselves. It avoids giving the answer to the tutee without giving any tools for solving the next questions. As you ask questions, if the student doesn’t seem to be finding the answer, ask a different question or ask your question in a different way.

Deep Questioning Activity:

Frame a series of questions from your subject area, using Socratic questioning.
















Questions about Questions



Notes and Questions:


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Level Two Peer Tutoring Fundamentals and Integration Workbook Copyright © 2019 by Kwantlen Polytechnic University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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