At Tools for Success, we believe in fostering a learning environment where students feel secure and encouraged to engage in deeper thinking. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by creating high-level questions that stimulate critical thinking and deeper understanding. In a recent YouTube video our CEO, Cathy Tooley discusses the WHY behind incorporating higher-level questions into your teaching.  Let’s dive in! 

Why High-Level Questions Matter

High-level questions are essential in setting the tone for the classroom and modeling the depth of inquiry expected from students. When educators ask high-level questions, they encourage students to mirror this behavior, leading to richer discussions and a more dynamic learning experience.

Test Yourself: Assess Your Question Levels

Here’s a challenge for all our educators. Next time you’re in front of your students, take a 30-minute block of your day and tally the types of questions you ask. Track how many level one (recall), level two (conceptual understanding), level three (strategic thinking), and level four (extended thinking) questions you pose. You might be surprised at the distribution. Remember, the higher the level of your questions, the higher the level of questions your students will start asking.


Now, let’s get into three practical tips to help you create those high-level questions:

  1. Start with Open-Ended Questions: Instead of asking questions that have a single correct answer, frame your questions to be open-ended. For example, instead of asking, “What is the capital of France?” you could ask, “How might the location of a country’s capital influence its culture and politics?” This encourages students to think more broadly and consider multiple perspectives.
  2. Encourage Justification and Evidence: Ask students not only to provide an answer but to justify it with evidence. For instance, if a student gives an opinion on a historical event, follow up with, “What evidence supports your viewpoint?” This practice helps students develop critical thinking skills and supports their arguments with factual information.
  3. Connect to Real-World Scenarios: Relate your questions to real-world scenarios to make them more engaging and relevant. For example, in a science class, instead of asking about the process of photosynthesis in isolation, ask, “How might the process of photosynthesis be affected by climate change, and what implications could this have for our environment?” This not only deepens their understanding but also connects classroom learning to the outside world.


By implementing these tips, you’ll notice a significant shift in the way your students engage with the material and with each other. Remember, when you model high-level questioning, your students will rise to meet your expectations.

Thank you for your dedication to improving education for our students. We can’t wait to hear about your experiences and the impact of these strategies in your classroom. Have a fantastic day!

We’d love to hear from you!  share your thoughts and results from the challenge in the comments below. Let’s continue to learn and grow together!