Questioning as a Cognitive Process

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Questions are used throughout learning to help students process new information and apply it to new situations. In this lesson, we will learn more about how our questions can be used as a cognitive strategy.

Domains of Learning

What do we know about the way children learn? The research team of Dr. Benjamin Bloom outlined three domains of learning. The learning domains are cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. The cognitive domain controls the development of intellect. Cognitive processes include the way a learner receives, stores, and retrieves new information. Cognition also includes the ability to transfer information to new situations to solve problems. In this lesson, we will learn more about how students use questioning techniques as a cognitive strategy to help them process information.


When you are solving a two-digit multiplication problems using mental math, how do you approach it? Some people multiply the tens, multiply the ones, and then add them together. Other people solve from right to left using regrouping. The ability to reflect on the way you think or learn is called metacognition.

Successful students think about their learning by asking themselves questions throughout a learning experience. Asking the right questions helps students narrow their focus, activate prior knowledge, develop schemata, or frameworks of understanding, and monitor their own progress.

Levels of Cognition

What are the right questions? Dr. Bloom and his team developed a hierarchy of cognitive skills as a guide to move through the levels of cognition.

  • The first level is gathering knowledge or remembering facts. While some recall is necessary to provide background information, do not devote too much time to developing low-level skills. Questions at this level are basically ' 'Who? What? Where? When?' ' and ' 'How?' '
  • The second level is working on comprehending and drawing conclusions from the knowledge acquired. If something works this way, what about this similar item? Does it work the same way?
  • The third level is applying the information students have learned. Questions at this level might include ' 'What would happen if? What might happen next?' '
  • The fourth level is analysis, which involves making inferences and drawing conclusions. Examples of analysis questions include ' 'How does this compare to the story I read last week? What might be an alternate ending?' '
  • The fifth level is evaluating, which includes developing and defending a position. At level four, the student might ask ' 'Why do you agree or disagree with the character's actions? Is there a better way to solve this problem?' '
  • The sixth level pulls the information together to develop a unique solution. At the fifth level, students may ask questions such as ' 'How can I use this information to solve another type of problem?' '

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