I have been researching about how to ask good questions. It has been one of the most challenging topics for me to research. I found that there are many many articles talking about ways to ask questions; however, I didn’t find a particular one which proposes a repeatable and implementable system for effective questionings. In business and management research, people usually use the simple 5 Why method (Murphy, 2017) to identify root causes of a particular problem or to discover new problems. In the startup realm, people usually use “Why How, What” as a general guide to create business pitches and venture designs. Additionally people also categorize questions into convergent, divergent, funneling, concrete, abstract, and creative types (Ciardiello, 1998; Morgan & Schreiber, 1969; Lewis, 2007). In educational research, Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom, 1956) and its updated version (Anderson et al., 2001) suggested 6 levels of questioning system and is commonly quoted and adapted to teach skills of questioning. Bloom’s taxonomy was proposed by Benjamin Bloom (1913–1999) including three domains of learning abilities:Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. The six levels of questioning belongs to the cognitive domain. We can explore the other two realms later.
Today’s article will focus on Bloom’s taxonomy question system by explaining different types and levels of knowledge. In the next article, we will take a deep dive into the definition and examples of the 6 levels of questioning. The goal of these articles is to provide information and tools for team leaders or individuals to ask better questions for more effective problem solving.
Question types and levels
To ask good questions, we first need to clarify what types and levels of information we are trying to draw out by the questions (Bloom, 1956). There are 4 levels of knowledge: factual, conceptual, procedure, and metacognitive knowledge. And there are 9 types of knowledge: terminology, specific facts, conventions, trends and sequences, classifications and categories, criteria, methodology, principles and generalizations, theories and structures. The types of knowledge is straightforward, I will explain a bit more about the levels of knowledge.
Factual Knowledge – What Facts Do I Know? It refers to the basic elements of the actual happenings. We should make sure that our crazy assumptions, interpretations, or reactions are not included here. Failure to do so will create plenty of opportunities for people to argue with each other. We definitely don’t want this to create another problem we have to deal with. Additionally, we have to develop clarity in our emotions, such as hesitations, blockages, and fears, all of which could be involved with the problem. Unfortunately, we are so afraid to investigate our emotions in business settings, and this type of factual knowledge got neglected often.
Conceptual Knowledge – What Concepts Do I Know? It refers to the understanding of basic and complex concepts, principles, theories, models, and classifications. We usually learn those at school or colleges or through job trainings in a specific industry. We can also develop our own concepts through self-reflections. Additionally, this type of knowledge also deal with the interrelationships among various basic factual elements, usually within a larger structure that enables them to function together.
Procedural Knowledge – What Procedures Can I Apply? It refers to various processes and systems, such as the procedure of doing something, methods of inquiry, and criteria for using skills, algorithms, techniques, and methods. This type of knowledge is different from conceptual knowledge about process or system because someone can apply procedure knowledge directly to a real task or problem.
Metacognitive Knowledge – How Much Do I Know What I Know? refers to someone’s awareness of his or her awareness, knowledge about his or her knowings. A simple example is “How much do I think I know about digital marketing?” Additionally, it also refers to people’s awareness of when and how a particular strategy should be used or a particular problem should be solved. So there is a “regulative” element to metacognition. I will explore metacognition more in later articles.
In the next article, we will take a deep dive into the definition and examples of the 6 levels of questioning. I will also propose a simple metric to guide systematic questions to solve problems. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave in the comments below.
Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., … & Wittrock, M. C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives, abridged edition. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Cognitive domain.
Ciardiello, A. V. (1998). Did you ask a good question today? Alternative cognitive and metacognitive strategies. Journal of adolescent & adult literacy, 42(3), 210-219.
Lewis, K. G. (2007). Developing questioning skills. Center for Teaching Effectiveness, The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved October, 18, 2007.
Morgan, J. C., & Schreiber, J. E. (1969). How To Ask Questions. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED033887.pdf
Murphy, B. (2017, November 16) How to Solve Any Problem By Asking 5 Questions. Retrieved April 14, 2019, from https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/how-to-solve-any-problem-by-asking-5-questions.html