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Using questions to set tasks for students

When teachers conduct recitations, they tend to ask questions at the lowest levels—Recall or Comprehension. If you identify questions from the higher levels on Bloom's taxonomy, you will increase your chances of having good discussions. This table can help you generate thoughtful questions at the Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation levels. At these higher levels, you should be thinking up questions that will stimulate your students and will also stimulate you.

Ask students to perform tasks like these: Recall, Comprehend, Apply, Analyze, Synthesize, Evaluate

By asking questions like those listed below:

Level 1. Recall. Remember and report information exactly, accurately


  • What happened after…?
  • How many…?
  • Can you name the…?
  • Describe what happened at…
  • What is…?
  • Which is true or false?
  • What was the gross national product of France last year?
  • What did the main character do after she encountered the bear?
  • How many Presidents of the United States has the State of Virginia produced?

Level 2. Comprehend. Rephrase or explain information in their own words (describe, explain, compare, contrast, rephrase, explain).


  • How would you say it in your own words?
  • How would you briefly outline?
  • Is this the same as…?
  • What do you think could have happened next?
  • What was the main idea?
  • What are the differences/similarities between…?
  • Can you provide an example of…?
  • Using your own words, tell how your textbook described the job of the U.S. Secretary of State?.

Level 3. Apply. Use previously learned information to reach an answer to a problem (apply, classify, use, choose, write an example, solve)


  • Do you know of another example where…?
  • Could this have happened in…?
  • What questions would you ask of…?
  • How would you group these…?
  • Predict what would happen if…
  • How would you apply the method used to some of your own experiences?
  • What instructions would you give based on the information provided?

Level 4. Analyze. Identify motives or causes. Draw conclusions. Identify or determine supporting evidence & reasoning. Offer a diagnosis or conclusion from data. Provide evidence or reasoning for an argument. Reach a generalization about a complex set of information.


  • Which events could have happened?
  • If …had happened, how would the story end?
  • How was this similar to or different from…?
  • What are other possible outcomes?
  • Why did … occur?
  • How is … similar to…?
  • What were some motives behind…?
  • What was the problem with…?
  • What is the premise of the argument?
  • What is the relationship between..?
  • What is the main idea/theme?
  • Which ideas are fact or opinion?
  • Which statement is relevant to this situation?
  • What is the point of view?
  • What persuasive technique is being used?
  • What is your analysis of the problem?
  • What conclusions did you draw from these data?
  • Why do you believe that?
  • What evidence supports your conclusion?
  • What arguments might be developed to counter that point of view?
  • Based on your study of the computer and telecommunications industries, what do you consider to be the major forces that enhance technological innovation?

Level 5. Synthesize. Invent, create or construct. Apply information to create original solutions. Predict or extrapolate from information. Solve a problem. Construct a hypothesis. Construct a proposal or a plan. Propose priorities or sequences.


  • How would you solve this problem?
  • How would you deal with...?
  • What would happen if...?
  • How would you test...?
  • What alternative…would you pose?
  • How would you create a design for...?
  • How would you plan for...?
  • If your conclusions are correct, what might be the reaction of the Japanese auto industry?
  • What do you think will happen to the protagonist in this play?
  • What would have happened to the company if the union did not call a strike?
  • What needs to be done to implement the government’s anti-drug campaign?
  • What do we need to do to work on the problem of bullying in this school?
  • Given the state’s limited resources, what is the first step to be taken?  The second?
  • What do you think the main character should do first?  And next?

Level 6. Evaluate. Judge the merit of an idea, solution or esthetic work, using explicit standards. (Assess, judge, argue)


  • What are some better solutions to...?
  • How would you judge the value of...?
  • How would you defend your position about...?
  • Why is ... a good (or bad) idea?
  • How would you have handled...?
  • What changes would you recommend?
  • How would you feel if...?
  • What fallacies exist in...?
  • What inconsistencies can you identify?
  • Which is more important (moral, logical, valid, appropriate)--...?


*Table adapted from these sources: Bloom, B. S., & Kraft, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: Longmans, Green. Dalton, J., & Smith, D. (1986) Extending children’s special abilities: Strategies for primary classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/researchskills/dalton.htm on 2/25/04. Christensen, C. R. (1991). The discussion teacher in action: Questioning, listening, and response.  In C.R. Christensen, D.A. Garvin, D. A. & A. Sweet  (Eds.).  Education for judgment: The artistry of discussion leadership. (pp. 153-172). Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Croom, B. (2004).  Are there Any Questions? Teachers College Record. Available:  http://www.tcrecord.org/ Date of access: March 10, 2004.