Education General Learning

Learning Through Questions- The ‘Ws and H’ That Assist you in Learning

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

What, Why, When, Which, and How—these words shape questions that foster thinking in our minds. The students need questions to indulge their brains in high-order thinking and enforce evaluation of the curriculum through their own skills. The age-old pattern of classroom learning has, since then, seen modifications in a lot of ways, though the practice of questions has maintained its consistency.

Asking questions is most efficient if it’s a two-way process. As such students should cater to their curiosity through questions and teachers must inculcate asking questions in their method of teaching and communicating with students. This enables better engagement in classrooms and helps understand the level of understanding each student has gained in what is being taught.

Want to know more about why asking questions in a classroom is important? Read Here

It is important to know what to ask and when to ask it. This assists the entire process of learning and aids a better understanding in the long run. We can classify questions into types based on characteristics and the kind of answers they receive. Analyzing these categories of questions is extremely important. It promotes reasoning, problem-solving, evaluation, and the formulation of hypotheses.

 Asking Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

These two kinds of questions are the most basic types of questioning that follow a classroom session. close-ended questions are extremely objective in nature, while a direct question is asked with the purpose of gaining a direct answer. This questioning is done by both students and teachers, with the goal of evaluating the level of understanding on both ends. These are fairly easy to tackle. Although they do not compel students to think hard and provide opinions or analyse a topic, they are extremely useful.

On the other hand, open-ended ones are extremely subjective. They require thinking, processing, evaluating, and analyzing. They majorly assist the teachers to inculcate deeper learning in students by helping them create their own perspectives.

Students use open-ended questions to their teachers, which not only fosters their ability to compartmentalize what is being taught to them but also shows fruitful and active involvement. ‘Why do you think this happened?’ or ‘What are your opinions on this issue?’ or ‘How would this issue have affected the other?’. These kinds of questions usually have more than one correct answer and therefore, foster creative thinking—a major factor of growth in young minds.

Metacognitive Questions by Teachers

 Metacognition in simple words is thinking about one’s own thinking. For students, metacognition is a practice that fosters them to evaluate their own perceptions, answers, and opinions. A teacher can enforce Meta Thinking in the classroom.

Simple questions, placed strategically within the lecture duration, can enforce excellent metacognition in students and stay with them for their life. These questions can hinder or enhance creative thinking, given the context a teacher uses them.

Consider these two questions: ‘Which of these makes more sense?’ versus ‘which of these makes more sense according to you?’ The structuring of the question is similar in both. But, the first question suggests a cognition in students that implies that the teacher has already chalked out the correct answer. If you can point out the correct one, you’re smart, and if you fail to do so, you’re not.

The second question, however, centers around fostering creative thinking in students. It compels students to internalize all possible answers and evaluate them on their own. Metacognitive questioning doesn’t pressurize the students into thinking there’s a right answer they need to figure out. It simply evokes curiosity so that they grind their minds using all the opinions and perceptions that they build while retaining.

If a student has difficulty answering metacognitive questions, it is a clear indication that the problem doesn’t lie in their inability to retain knowledge. It is confidence and self-efficacy that they lack. The teacher then focuses on these problems instead of casting off the child as slow learners.

Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy

Low and high-order division of questions influences the Taxonomy theory heavily. However, this classification brings only cognition into focus. These two cognitive categories include lower order ( for memory, rote, and simple recall) and higher-order ( for more demanding and exacting thinking).

Taxonomy, however, expanded itself into not one but three domains, one of them being cognition. The other two domains are psychomotor and affective, all three of which overlap with each other. These three domains are co-dependent on each other, with the most basic level being cognition.

Taxonomy assists teachers in dividing the difficulty level of questions to ask the students. It is a method for students to not only self-evaluate but also develop understanding from a basic level before moving higher up.

Taxonomy states six steps for clearing concepts, each step having its own sets of questions. Once students resolve these questions, they can move forward to the next. Each step assists in answering the next one. Hence, by the end, students are able to fully grasp the topic.


These methodologies, at their core, inculcate intelligent questioning in classrooms. Questions tend to boost the level of retention in a class. It also increases student engagement and is the best way to facilitate understanding and grasping the nuances of a topic. Asking questions has been proven to be profoundly fruitful by generations of theorists and educational psychologists. It will continue being essential till classrooms are facilitated by the two-way interaction system, amongst the teacher and students.


Why do we need more questioning in classrooms?

How many times have you asked “why?” in your life? This three-lettered question has the power to unlock the true essence of a concept, making questioning in classrooms rather important. However, we do not ask enough questions when it comes to education. So far, in our 3-blog series on exploring education, we have learned the purpose of education and how it has evolved. With this write-up, we are concluding the series by looking into the need for questioning in classrooms.

The crisis of lack of questioning in classrooms

Let’s be honest. When was the last time you, a student, asked a question in class with confidence? When was the last time your teacher or peers didn’t give you an annoyed look when you did ask a question?

Unfortunately enough, answers to these questions would range from a few times to never. As a society, we are facing a crisis in education, perhaps a greater problem than the one posed by Covid-19: Lack of questioning. 

To be fair, we all start as curious beings. As children, we annoy our parents to no end by asking question after question to understand the world around us. Oddly enough, the number of questions we ask during a class dwindles as we grow up. Is it because we are trained to passively accept information and dump it on paper during a test after cramming it in the previous night? This is sadly the reality of our education system today. 

Education, however, was never passive, to begin with. We have the legacy of learning models like the Socratic method that bases teaching and learning on questioning in classrooms. Today, this method is limited to legal and medical education to encourage a deeper understanding of the concepts. However, it would be in the best interests of teachers, students, and the entire learning community, if we indulged in some effective questioning strategies. 

But, why?

How questioning in classrooms helps

We have established how we aren’t asking enough questions in classrooms. But, how can questioning in classrooms help further the learning process? Let us look at some benefits to understand the same. 

Better learners

In the current education system, we indulge in rote learning, where students memorize concepts without understanding their essence. The learning process (if any) ends in the classroom, as students feel no need to further explore the subject. However, questioning in classrooms can change this, making them curious enough to perform independent research. This makes them better learners. 

Better teachers

More often than not, there is a gap between what teachers wish to convey and what the students interpret from a class. This leaves teachers unaware of how much their students understand a concept. Classroom questioning, however, can help bridge this gap. With effective questions, teachers can gauge the level of understanding and design their classes accordingly. This can ultimately improve the teaching and learning experiences.

Improved retention

A 2016 research on Retrieval Learning shows questions can help in improving the recalling and retention power in students. Even without the stats on this research, it is fairly obvious how questioning in classrooms can help retention. We ask questions when a concept or information interests us. This interest can then become an investment into the answer and understanding a concept. Therefore, students need to be encouraged more to ask questions. 

An engaged class

Lastly, in-class engagement is significantly improved when students and teachers have a meaningful discussion over a concept. When this discussion is fueled by questions from students’ end and effective questioning techniques, lessons become interesting and the learning process is simplified. At the end of the day, education is (or at least should be) understanding concepts through an exchange of ideas. Classroom questioning facilitates this and more.

Asking why in education

So far, we have established the importance of asking questions in the classroom. While there is no dearth of questions that can be asked during a class, there is one that often gets sidelined in the questioning process: “Why? Why are we learning this concept/subject?” Students, today, simply accept information over wondering why they are being fed it in the first place. Part of the problem is the teaching community, as eloquently put by Elon Musk in a 2017 interview. 

As teachers scramble to finish the syllabus set by an education board, students focus on getting grades. This approach to learning is the root of the problem. As a society, we need to move towards a classroom that asks and answers questions, including the whys in education. Teachers can play a great role in making this happen by creating an atmosphere that encourages students to indulge in classroom questioning. 

When enough questions are asked in the classroom, we will see a revolution in the way education works. Don’t take our word for it, look at what Elon Musk has to say about this.

Asking why and the change in education systems

Students, today, simply accept information; education systems are no exception to this. Here’s how classroom questioning and asking the whys will change education forever. 

A deeper understanding of concepts

Most students blindly memorize concepts and formulae without understanding why they are learning them in the first place. This hinders the learning process, as students don’t get the essence of the topic. On the other hand, when they understand the purpose of learning a subject, students are more likely to link it with real-life situations, leading to a deeper understanding of concepts. 

Choosing what to learn

Yet another way classroom questioning and asking ‘why’ can help students is by giving them the freedom of choice. Currently, students have limited options on what they can and cannot learn. The biggest reason is the lack of understanding of the purpose of learning it. 

When students understand why they are being taught a subject, they can make a conscious decision based on their life goals. This can potentially change the way schools and education work. While learning it all is okay for students who are yet to plan out their academic career, for those who have a clear idea of what they want to do in life, the freedom of choosing their subjects can be a great tool.

Increased accountability 

The curriculum that schools follow is set by boards of education, who design the same based on several factors, including the purpose. However, rarely do these curriculums serve the students and the goals they have. This is why a potential art major has to learn physics and math until they finish school. 

When students understand the purpose of learning a subject and make a conscious decision over what and what not to learn, boards will need to change how they design the curriculum. Furthermore, teachers, too, will be held accountable for answering the questions students have and teach topics that help students on their chosen path. 

Summing up

Education, at its current state, requires a major revamp. With a lack of classroom questioning and understanding over the purpose of learning a topic, we are heading towards a generation of learners who have no clue about the real-world applications of what they learn. Teachers, therefore, need to encourage more questions and discussions within the class and intentionally explain the applications of a topic.

When students and teachers become a team, a revolution in education is not far behind.