By: Tom Goulding

Teachers spend 35-50% of their lecture time asking questions. Some of you are nodding in agreement while you read this because it makes sense. Sometimes though, it can feel like you’re having a conversation with a brick wall instead of your students. When this eventually happens, you need to have a fallback plan for reengaging your kids. Consider this a crash course on Bloom’s Taxonomy and a review of how we ask questions.

The Core 6

Good questions are the lifeblood of teaching. When used properly, good questions stimulate a student’s mind. They help them develop essential life skills, such as critical thinking, motivation to learn more and the confidence to ask questions. All of these are essential for increased collaboration and teamwork.

With this kind of learning spirit in mind, let’s review the six methods of how to ask a question based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. These are, from lowest to highest:

  • Knowledge.
  • Comprehension.
  • Application.
  • Analysis.
  • Synthesis.
  • Assessment.

Now, let’s break down each category.


A knowledge-based question gets straight to the point—you ask a specific question because you want a specific answer. Your students then draw from their knowledge base to answer in a few words or less.

Questions in this method may look like this:

  • What is the powerhouse of the cell?
  • What is the opposite of a synonym?

As these questions are the building blocks of student learning, classifying them is essential for material to translate into their growing minds.


There’s knowing, and then there’s a deeper understanding. Concepts need to be communicated back through students’ own words. You need this so that you can clarify your approach and fill in the gaps as needed. Comprehensive questions go like this:

  • In your own words, explain what the author means by “the curtains were blue.”
  • Give an example of a covalent bond.


Students now have the opportunity to solve problems based on what you’ve taught them. Application questions encourage students to act, such as:

  • Choose what element pairs best with carbon.
  • What color makes this palette trichromatic?


This is where students begin to break down the meat and potatoes of the subject matter. Questions of comparison are especially helpful to guide students to question and dissect what they observe. Analysis questions sound like:

  • What factors led to the social unrest of the 1960s?
  • As you read, what in the subtext indicates hubris?


They’ve gotten to know the material, now students must recreate it in their own method or form. Creative problem solutions are a surefire way to ground concepts clearly into their minds, such as:

  • Compare Abraham Lincoln to George Washington in relation to the country. How do you think things would change if their places were swapped?
  • How would you rearrange the notes to create a minor tone? Is it currently a true major?


Students with these questions are encouraged to make judgment calls, determine the value of an idea and see if it’s relevant to the current discussion. Assessment questions may sound like:

  • How valuable is Wikipedia during your research process?
  • How effectively does Mercutio’s death contribute to the overall themes? Why or why not?

Reviewing how you ask questions is a great way to reboot your teaching skills. This article served as a crash course in Bloom’s Taxonomy and, hopefully, will inspire you to cultivate your lesson plans around persuasive and compelling questions that spur student learning.