Of course there are many different sorts of questions. Teachers use questions to find out how well students are learning. This so-called Socratic method engages with others to help lead them into knowledge. Rhetorical questions make a point and don’t expect an answer. Presuppositional questions like: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” get you into plenty of trouble quickly! Some people have tried to classify how many types of questions there are. Indeed, someone has described 17 sorts including the irreverent question, the apparently irrelevant question, the hypothetical question and the unanswerable question.
One of the simpler classifications has been devised by David Bloom who claims there are six primary categories:
1) Knowledge – Who, what, when, where, why, how?
2) Comprehension – How well did you understand that?
3) Application – How is this…an example of, or related to?
4) Analysis – What are the parts or features of this?
5) Synthesis – what would you infer from this? What solutions can you suggest for? What ideas can you bring?
6) Evaluation – Do you agree that? What do you think? What is the most important?
Often questions can involve more than one primary category, as we shall see. At their best, questions open up relationships giving us truth spaces in which to grow.
When questions open up relationships we need to ask what kind they are between the person asking the question and the one who responds. It makes all the difference whether the relationship is Top-Down or Side-by-Side.