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.


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.

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About huntingenglish

I am Director of Learning and Research at Huntington Secondary School, York. I have taught English (including a bit of Media Studies) for over a decade. If it is tragic and gothic, laced with humour and bitter truths then I'll teach it! I have had the great privilege to have written a book, 'Teach Now! Becoming a Great English Teacher', edited by the brilliant Geoff Barton, and I am writing another for Routledge, entitled, 'The Confident Teacher'. I am Project Lead of the RISE (Research-leads Improving Students' Education) Project. An EEF funded randomized controlled trial to evaluate if and how a Research-lead can improve outcomes for students. I am a proud member of the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) Executive Board at York University. I am also a proud member of the ResearchEd Advisory Panel. I write regularly for the TES and Teach Secondary magazine. My first book, 'Teach Now! Becoming A Great English Teacher' was released by Routledge in 2014 and my next book, entitled 'The Confident Teacher' will be out at the end of 2015.

5 responses to “Questioning – A Little Bit of Theory…Going Beyond Bloom”

  1. Kerry Pulleyn says :

    I’ve used questioning circles for teaching poetry in KS4. It was very successful and great for encouraging student autonomy. As a class, they tried out several different analysis strategies (Blooms question stems, thinking hats, creating diamond nines, questioning circles) and gradually students move on to choosing which they would like to use.

  2. reduxockham says :

    YES. Love this. Nice reframe/tweak/shift/challenge.

    SImiliar is a theft we have conducted on the Art Syllabus here, it refers to the Cultural, Post-Modern, Subjective, and Structural Frame to consider art. (We renamed Post-Modern to Critical)

    (From Art Page)
    The CULTURAL FRAME where the cultural environment in which the artist has developed subject matter, conventions, style and technique, is explored by the artist and audience.

    The POST-MODERN FRAME, where the artist in contemporary times uses the non-conventional, the appropriated and recontextualisated to present art, meaningful to a technologically sophisticated audience.
    Appropriated means borrowed. To take an image from one source and use it else where with a new meaning.
    Recontextualised means, given a new context or meaning by changing the surroundings of an image or word.

    The SUBJECTIVE FRAME, where the personal, emotive qualities are examined, or how the artist has used the elements and principles to convey feelings, personal responses or imaginings to the audience.

    The STRUCTURAL FRAME, where the form, media, techniques and how the work is composed using the elements and Principles of Design is examined. From the Structural viewpoint or frame we look at what, where, when, why and how an artwork is made.

    • huntingenglish says :

      I like how you have adapted and reframed a taxonomy that is more suitable to Art and is therefore more flexible and useful. My issue with Bloom is not that it isn’t useful, but that it is rigid, and people respond to the rigidly with further rigidity!

  3. Sam Marfleet says :

    I agree that Bloom’s when rigidly applied in ‘ladder form’ can be too linear, but I think it can be a good introduction to questioning for teachers who want to understand and apply questioning with more focus. I think when set alongside an enquiry question this a much more three dimensional approach to planning then with a simple objective and graded outcomes.

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