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The Use of Higher Order Questions

Updated on January 13, 2012

Amy Hans is an elementary teacher in Brooksville, Florida. She has a Bachelors, as well as a Masters Degree, in Elementary Education.

The Use of Higher Order Questions

Teachers are asked to incorporate higher order questions in their everyday curriculum. Although some publishers include these types of questions - presented as objectives - most are not suitable or specific enough to use as an open response question on exit slips, exams, or essays. Creating higher order questions can be challenging and time consuming for most teachers. I have put this HUB together in order to help teachers devise higher order questions in a snap!

What is Higher Order Questioning?

First lets explore the origin and meaning of higher order questioning. Benjamin Bloom, an American educational psychologist, devised a system in which cognitive (thinking) domains were leveled. In asking higher order questions, teachers are engaging students in the most meaningful thought processes. Instead of regurgitating rote memorized facts or data, such as spelling words, state capitals, and the like. teachers who ask higher order questions expect students to THINK! Higher order questions will usually fall somewhere in the last three tiers of Bloom's Taxonomy e.g., Analysis, Synthesis, and Application.

Verbs Associated With Analysis

Analysis separates concepts into component parts so that its structure may be understood. Analysis distinguishes between facts and inferences. Higher order questions associated with analysis would included questions with the following verbs incorporated into the question :

analyze, break down, compare, contrast, diagram, deconstruct, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, identify, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, select, separate

Verbs Associated With Synthesis

Synthesis is the act of placing parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure. Higher order questions associated with synthesis would include questions with the following verbs incorporated:

categorize, combines, compile, compose, create, devise, design, explain, generate, modify, organize, plan, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, rewrite, summarize, tell, write.

Verbs Associated With Evaluation

Evaluation is the act of making judgments about the value of ideas or materials. Verbs associated with evaluation would be:

appraise, conclude, criticize, critique, defend, discriminate, evaluate, explain, interpret, justify, relate, support

Putting It All Together

Finding the tier(s) most suitable for the material being covered is a teacher's own judgment call. I generally think of the material we have covered and then read over the verbs in each tier. Usually I gravitate toward one tier over the other.

For example, if we had just covered a unit on the water cycle, I would tend to use verbs associated with Analysis. Consequently I would write higher order questions using those type of verbs in the question.

A higher order question on the water cycle might be:

  • Illustrate the travels of a droplet of water as it moves about in the water cycle.
  • Break apart the water cycle and explain why each cycle is interdependent on the other.

Now You Try It!

In the comments section below, please feel free to share a higher order question utilizing this approach. Please use the following format:

Water Cycle (K-5) Illustrate the travels of a droplet of water as it moves about the water cycle.

I hope this helps! Happy teaching!




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    • profile image

      Rohan Smit 

      6 years ago

      We study it in Collage. We apply...or try to apply it in our classes everyday and when it comes to actually setting a question paper with these types of questions; well I'm dumbfounded. Thank you very much Amy! Today YOU get a star!!

    • Tante Gretchen profile image

      Tante Gretchen 

      6 years ago from Northern Illinois

      I appreciate that this hub actually requires a teacher to learn and think about these words, in the process of taking your info and adding it into his/her daily teaching. As an English major, writer, librarian and mom I have often been very frustrated with teachers merely repeating a text idea without actually improving their own intellect. Thanks!


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