Questioning – A Little Bit of Theory…Going Beyond Bloom
This post is a little heavy on the theory that underpins questioning, but it is part of my thinking for a prospective post about a list of ‘top ten questioning strategies’ that I am currently planning. Looking into the theory and research about questioning just confirms my uneasiness with the dominance of Bloom’s taxonomy as a structure for questioning (and indeed learning objectives) – see Fig 1.
At the root of my issue with Bloom is that I think the hierarchy proposed by Bloom is too often taken rigidly as a step ladder towards higher order understanding, when in actual fact learning isn’t simply as linear and hierarchical as the taxonomy would imply. There are a legion of question stem documents littering the web, as well as educational writing based on Bloom’s taxonomy – I suppose they do no harm, but they should be dealt with critically at the very least.
I much prefer Christenbury and Kelly’s model of the ‘Questioning Circle’ to evaluate and move towards classifying questioning, as it is more flexible and therefore more suitable to the contingent nature of learning – see Fig 2.
The three intersecting circles represent domains of cognition, and rather than presenting a hierarchical approach to classifying questions, like Bloom, they present an overlapping model with much greater flexibility. For Christenbury and Kelly, the three circles each represent a different aspect of reality: (1) the Matter – the subject of discussion (issue, problem, topic), (2) the Personal Reality – the student’s relationship with the subject, and (3) the External Reality – the broader perspective of the subject. When the circles overlap higher order questioning occurs. I think that considering the personal perspective of the student is a particularly important approach and for that reason the ‘Questioning Circle’ model is better suited to the contingent and social nature of learning. These examples of the ‘Questioning Circle’ model are particularly helpful:
“Following are sample questions representing the circles and their interactions from one incident in Huckleberry Finn:
1. The Matter – What does Huck say when he decides not to turn Jim in to the authorities?
2. Personal Reality – When would you support a friend when everyone else thought he or
she was wrong?
3. External Reality – What was the responsibility of persons finding runaway slaves?
4. The Matter/Personal Reality – In what situations might someone be less than willing to
take the consequences of his or her actions?
5. Personal Reality/External Reality – Given the social and political circumstances, to what
extent would you have done as Huck did?
6. The Matter/External Reality – What were the issues during the time which caused both
Huck’s and Jim’s actions to be viewed as wrong?
7. The Matter/Personal Reality/External Reality – When is it right to go against social
and/or political structures of the time as Huck did when he refused to turn Jim into the authorities?”
(Christenbury and Kelly, 1983)