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Albert Einstein famously stated: “The important thing is not to stop questioning" – however, it is the appropriateness of the question that is a critical factor in whether the question elicits a useful response.  There are different types of questions.

The constant “why?" that a small child asks about everything is considered appropriate for a child who is exploring the environment and trying to understand why things are the way they are.  Questions change as the individual asking them grows and cognitive changes occur.  Developmentally, questions become more specific and are designed to elicit certain types of responses. 

Questions might be asked because the individual is curious, needs clarification or wants to understand something.  There are also closed and open questions, which can be easily explained using a funnel.  By holding the funnel upright (i.e., with the wider aperture of the funnel uppermost), it can be explained that lots of different questions can be asked but the response (illustrated by the narrow aperture) is restricted, usually pre-determined and limited, often requiring a binary (“yes/no") response – such as “Is it raining?"  

Alternatively, when the funnel is tipped upside-down (i.e., with the wider aperture of the funnel at the base), it can be explained that certain questions can be asked (as illustrated by the narrow aperture at the top) but the response is usually much wider, (as shown by the wider aperture) sometimes unexpected and likely to elicit further questions – such as 'What is the weather like, today?"

Reflection is also importantly associated with the appropriateness of a question; however sometimes it is difficult to find the time required for reflection.  Ensuring there is sufficient time for reflection allows an individual to establish the pattern of thinking for oneself and to operate at a higher cognitive level, although it can be tempting (especially when time constrained) for adults to slip into a well-established pattern as the source of all knowledge.  It can be harder to take the time to allow an individual to think for oneself, reflecting upon the current issue and being able to identify the answer to something that they would otherwise ask a question about.

Emerita Professor Karen Rogers from Minnesota drew upon her research to claim that (based on Bloom's Taxonomy) high ability students need “HOTS not MOTS" – using the acronyms for 'Higher Order Thinking Skills' and 'More Of The Same'. Time for reflection can allow an older student to 'problem solve', working out the answer so a question does not need to be asked. Reflecting on issues trains an individual to think, to solve problems by exploring possibilities.  Questioning is important but it is the quality and appropriateness of the question asked that will quench the individual's thirst for knowledge or prompt a considered response.

© Michele Juratowitch

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Last reviewed 21 April 2023
Last updated 21 April 2023