Questioning to 
Promote Higher-Order Thinking


According to the Maryland State Department of Education publication Better Thinking and Learning (1991), teachers who ask “higher-order” questions promote learning because these types of questions require students to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information instead of simply recalling facts.

A meta-analysis of l8 experiments by Redfield and Rousseau (1981) concluded that the predominant use of higher-level questions during instruction yielded positive gains on tests of both factual recall and application of thinking skills. Similarly, Andre (1979) reviewed research investigating the effects of having students respond to “higher-level” questions inserted every few paragraphs in a text. He concluded that such a procedure facilitates better textbook learning than do fact question inserts.

In spite of the obvious educational advantages of emphasizing higher-order questions, research studies of classrooms conducted by Gall (1970) and Hare and Pulliam (1980) confirm that only 20 percent of classroom questions posed by teachers require more than simple factual recall. John Goodlad (1983) reports that only about one percent of classroom discussion invited students to give their own opinions and reasoning.

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This site was developed by the Department of Staff Development, in collaboration with the Division of Instruction. Questions, comments, and other inquiries may be addressed to Allene Chriest ( or Jeff Maher  (