Teaching Tip # 14 – Higher Level Questioning

Using Bloom's and Costa's while questioning your students.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy and Costa’s Levels of Inquiry


Throughout instructional time, you may find your students are arriving at “right answers”. Your students may have the ability to answer questions, but how do you know if they have mastered the content? How can you use questioning to stretch the thinking of your students to much higher levels?

The answer lies in Bloom’s Taxonomy or Costa’s Levels of Inquiry. These are both models of inquiry – the higher on the model you go, the higher level of questions that are asked. On the lowest levels, students might be defining, listing, or reciting information. With the middle levels, students begin to analyze, compare, or apply information. Upon reaching the highest levels, students are showing their understanding by evaluating, judging, or creating. These models can guide questioning for students to begin thinking at a higher level.

Use of these inquiry models is one of the most important tools a teacher can use when questioning students. In the examples below, a math teacher might be questioning students to add fractions.

  • Level 1 (Bloom’s Understand and Remember): What is 1/2 + 1/4?
  • Level 2 (Bloom’s Apply and Analyze): Two students are sharing pizza. One student has…another student has…who has more?
  • Level 3 (Bloom’s Evaluate and Create): Put students in charge of a pizza shop. Students need to determine how to slice their pizzas for greatest profit.

The use of Bloom’s and Costa’s in the classroom can be an extremely powerful guide to instruction and a pathway to student learning. Familiarity with these models can lead to rigorous instruction, aligned assessments, and an opportunity to challenge students with open-ended questions that require challenging thinking. They can even lead to more engagement and fun for your students! Be sure to review your lessons, and find where you can add higher level questions for your students.

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