Blog Post: Should You Ask Questions You Know the Answer to?

According to Bloom's Taxonomy, which presents a means of organizing the skills involved in learning from least to most complex, "Knowledge Questions," which ask students to remember specific facts they have read or heard, are cognitively the least challenging questions for students to answer. While asking students "knowledge" questions, like "so when was the Boston Tea Party?" can offer a way into a more challenging discussion involving more complex cognitive skills, like analyzing and evaluating, it can also shut down a conversation as students wrack their brains for the one "correct" answer. 

Rephrasing the question, perhaps to "so what do we know about the Boston Tea Party?" can offer more avenues for students to enter the conversation while still eliciting the same information. But does it get at the central idea? Are we asking the right questions?

One thing I try to do in every class is ask several questions that I don't know the answer to. These may be questions that I have an idea of an answer to, or, perhaps ways that I would answer the question, but, are questions that lack a single, discrete "right" answer. This automatically forces my questions higher up Bloom's Taxonomy. If I ask my students which mattered more in the coming of the Revolution, the diffusion of the ideas that led to the Boston Tea Party or the American reaction to the consequences of the event, and I ask my students to defend their answers with specific claims, or divide the class in two to debate the question, I have simultaneously moved higher up Bloom's Taxanomy and moved the room from a ping-pong match between me and my most prepared students to a conversation that everyone has a stake in. 

So, what questions do you ask that you don't know the answer to?