Return to Headlines

Habits of Mind: Questioning and posing problems

Posted on Jan. 3, 2017

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” - Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner) 

In January, our 3rd-8th graders are exploring a new Habit of Mind. One of the distinguishing characteristics of humans is our inclination and ability to find problems to solve. Effective problem solvers know how to ask questions to fill in the gaps between what they know and what they don't know:

  • What evidence do you have?
  • How do you know that's true?
  • How reliable is this data source?

They also pose questions about alternative points of view:

  • From whose viewpoint are we seeing, reading, or hearing?
  • From what angle, what perspective, are we viewing this situation?

Effective questioners pose questions that make causal connections and relationships:

  • How are these (people, events, or situations) related to each other?
  • What produced this connection?

Sometimes they pose hypothetical problems characterized by "if" questions:

  • What do you think would happen if… ?
  • Ifthat is true, then what might happen if … ?

Inquirers recognize discrepancies and phenomena in their environment, and they probe into their causes:

  • How high can birds fly?
  • What would happen if we put the saltwater fish in a freshwater aquarium?
  • What are some alternative solutions to international conflicts, other than wars?


Here’s a great “checklist’ for students to assess their own questioning (good for metacognition, too!)

Common language for this habit includes: interested, delving, quest, probing, qualify, clarifying, investigative, inquiry, curious, seeking, inquisitive, skeptical, cautious, puzzled, query, speculative, perplexing, proof and hypothetical.