What aspects of questioning are important to target?

A Simple Overview or Framework of Questioning

Broadly speaking there seems to be three main categories of questions that we use in normal daily life.
They are Requests, Rhetorical, and Inquiry Questions.

These are the questions used when a person seeks permission, or seeks assistance from someone.
E.g. “Can you lend me $20?”
“May I leave the room?”
“Am I able to take my holiday from Dec 12 to January 12?”

Rhetorical Questions:
The questioner knows the answer, is not seeking an answer, but has some alternative motive behind the question. For example they may be trying to make a point, demonstrate their own knowledge, or corner another person in an argument.
E.g. “What time do you call this?”
“Why are you so stupid?”
“Are you kidding me?”

Rhetorical questions come in a number of forms, one of which is the Disguised Imperative. These are primarily a command disguised as a question. The question highlights the demand and usually requires an action rather than an answer.
E.g. “Do we wear our muddy shoes inside the classroom?”
“How do we act when we want to ask a question?”
“What do we take with us to the library to put our books in?”

Inquiry Questions: An ‘Inquiry’ or ‘Information Seeking’ question is one posed by the questioner to obtain needed information within a specific context, aspect, concept, issue, or problem. These are the questions that power learning.

In this simple overview there are two layers of Inquiry question.

The primary layer consists of a question that opens or defines the area of learning. It may pose a problem, identify a need, or establish a concern/issue for investigation. Basically it sets the scene and provides a specific context for learning. These primary questions have been labelled by a variety of names including ‘Rich Questions’, ‘Essential Questions’, ‘Fertile Questions’, and Reflective Questions’.


Within the field of Inquiry Learning these primary questions may be teacher generated, negotiated between teacher and pupil, or learner generated. There are a number of issues that need to be considered when creating these primary questions.

Firstly the questions obviously need to be carefully structured and it takes skill and practice to create good questions at this level.

Secondly it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that questions are supported by relevant and valid information sources that are suited to the reading and comprehension of the learners before the inquiry is embarked on. We know that risk taking and failure are integral parts of learning but it is important that learners experience success as they build their knowledge and learning skills. A major aspect of supporting learners is to ensure that whatever the context of learning is, relevant information is available, at appropriate reading levels for the learner/s. This is a major aspect of teacher preparation and teachers should do everything possible to ensure that pupil’s inquiry learning is well supported by level and context relevant information.

There is a secondary layer of Inquiry questions that are the central core to learning. These are the information seeking questions a learner asks to obtain specific information that will be utilised to fuel their learning.


Independence in learning requires the learner to be an effective questioner, and to do this they need to be able to ask effective questions at this secondary layer of inquiry questioning.

There are a number of types of questions that learners will ask at this level and they include Fact finding, Evaluative, Daignostic, and Hypothetical questions.
Questions from this level have also been identified as ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ questions, ‘open’ and ‘closed’ questions.

There are further question types that could be identified here, with many of the definitions being contestable and debatable. What is important, is that these questions, however they are labelled, have one the primary goal which is to gain specific information that will be utilised for one or more of a range of purposes.