A guiding question is a question that designed to encourage students to think more deeply about the topic under study. It should ‘guide’ students toward the answers without giving the answers to the student directly.
Guiding questions facilitate students arriving at a particular end-point that is achieved by their own efforts, as opposed to being told the answer by the teacher. The question can be delivered orally or in written form.
Guiding Questions Examples
The following are guiding questions that can help stimulate deeper thinking on a topic:
- To help people get to the point: What is the main objective or goal of this project?
- To help people identify their audience: Who are the stakeholders or target audience for this initiative?
- To help people target their audience: How will you frame your points or arguments in order to convince your audience?
- To identify downsides: If you could find one weakness or negative of what you’re doing right now, what would it be?
- To help people identify potential obstacles: What are the potential risks or challenges that may arise during the implementation process?
- To help people plan for a project: What resources (e.g. funding, personnel, technology) will be necessary to achieve our goals?
- To help people identify success indicators: How will success be measured and evaluated?
- To maintain ethical guidelines: What are the ethical considerations or implications of this project?
- To identify potential rebuttals or pushback: What would your opponents think of what you are saying and how would you respond to their complaints?
- To ensure your actions match your values: How does this initiative align with our organization’s mission and values?
- To engage in lateral thinking: Can you think of any other ways you can reach your objectives besides this first method you identified?
- To become future-thinking: What are the potential long-term effects or impacts of this project?
- To incorporate trends and best practices: What are the current trends or best practices in this field, and how can we incorporate them?
- To encourage planning: What are the key milestones or benchmarks that need to be met along the way?
- To identify problems before they happen: What are the potential barriers to success, and how can they be overcome?
- To make sure your work has an impact: How can we ensure that our efforts are sustainable and have a lasting impact?
- To ensure there’s no collateral damage: What are the potential unintended consequences or risks?
- To encourage continual growth: What steps can we take to continuously improve and refine our approach over time?
Benefits and Limitations of Guiding Questions
|Benefits of Guiding Questions||Limitations of Guiding Questions|
|1. Encourage Critical Thinking: They help to prompt learners to think more deeply and critically about a topic. A well-formed guided question can help learners connect new information with what they already know, identify patterns, and explore new avenues of inquiry.||1. Restrictive: Guiding questions can truncate student thinking and may limit learners’ creativity. They often prevent students from exploring other relevant topics.|
|2. Encourage Reflection: Guiding questions help students to reflect on their learning process and achieve metacognition. Without the questions, students may not pause and self-reflect.||2. Can be too Teacher-Centered: While guided questioning is usually used as a student support mechanism, teachers may also use them to guide students away from their own creative thought processes and toward the perspectives of the teacher.|
|3. Promote Engagement: Guiding questions can re-engage a student in a learning scenario by sparking new interest in a stale topic. This can lead to enhanced intrinsic motivation to learn.||3. Prevents Exploration: Guiding questions may prevent students from covering all aspects of a topic, leaving learners with a partial understanding of the subject matter.|
|4. Support Learning Goals: The key reason teachers use guiding questions is that they direct students toward the ideal learning goals. In this sense, guided questions (as well as open-ended questions) are scaffolds in the learning process.||4. Introduces Bias: Guiding questions may contain the implicit biases of the teacher, leading learners to certain conclusions that are based on the subjective and limiting perspectives of the teacher.|
Case Studies and Research Basis
1. Sahin and Kulm (2008) – A Math Study
Teachers are trained to ask questions during instruction. They understand the value and benefits it brings in student engagement, processing, and retention of material. But what types of questions do they use most often?
With this in mind, Sahin and Kulm (2008) examined the types of questions two 6th-grade mathematics teachers implemented most often.
One was a first-year teacher and the other more experienced. The study took place in a Texas public middle school.
Five lessons from each teacher were video-recorded and transcribed. The written data was then coded for type of question presented: factual, probing, or guiding.
“The results showed that teachers still ask more factual than other types of questions. The reason may be that factual questions can be asked any time during the lesson with any content” (p. 238).
The authors note that the first-year teacher asked a higher percentage of probing questions than the experienced teacher. It was suggested that this may be due to a higher degree of enthusiasm, or following the textbook more closely, which suggested various probing questions.
One use of guided questions is to direct a student’s focus. It is easy for a student’s attention to drift while doing an assignment, which can lead to them skipping key steps in a lesson or not including important details.
A teacher can approach this situation in one of two ways. One, they can tell the student what is wrong and instruct them to make the necessary adjustments.
Or, they can ask a series of guided questions to help direct the student’s attention so that they can identify the steps or information they left out.
This video shows a teacher using a guided approach so that the students discover their mistakes by themselves.
This is a far better approach than the teacher simply telling the student what they did wrong. It helps the student develop a sense of responsibility for their learning and creates an atmosphere that encourages autonomy.
3. Haagsman et al. (2020) – Exploring Pop-Up Questions within Videos
Educational videos are valuable instructional tools. They can facilitate remote learning and add an interesting dynamic to any lesson. However, student engagement can drift during longer videos and viewing can become passive.
To counter these obstacles, Haagsman et al. (2020) point to segmentation and signaling as possible remedies (Ibrahim, 2011).
“Segmentation is defined as the division of videos into smaller segments while signaling encompasses visual and audial signs that increase students’ focus on the most relevant information” (p. 714).
Undergraduate students in a molecular biology course watched videos either with or without pop-up questions. The videos were on average 16 minutes long and contained at least one question every 5 or 6 minutes.
“Surprisingly, the percentage of correctly answered test questions was not significantly different between students that did (72%) or did not (69%) receive corresponding pop-up questions” (p. 719).
However, students indicated that the questions “helped them to study at home and were positive about including more pop-up questions within the videos” (p. 721).
4. Lawson et al. (2006) – Worksheet Questions for Videos
Lawson et al. (2006) conducted one of the early studies on the use of guided questions to enhance learning while students watch educational videos. The study involved over 100 students in an introductory psychology course watching a video about social psychology.
Students in one section were provided 8 guiding questions presented on a worksheet and were instructed to answer those questions during the presentation. Students in the other section watched the video without the guiding questions.
Afterwards, both groups took a test containing both video-related and textbook-related questions.
The results showed that “students who received guiding questions scored significantly higher on the video-related questions than did those in the control group; there was no effect of experimental condition on students’ performance on the textbook-related questions” (p. 31).
5. Byggeth et al. (2006) – Product Development Study
Including sustainability concerns in the design stage of product development is essential. Once a product has been developed and moved into the manufacturing stage, opportunities for sustainability have already passed.
Byggeth et al. (2006) suggest “there is a lack of tools or methods for sustainable product development (SPD)” (p. 1). Therefore, the authors devised a framework for a method of sustainability product development (MSPD) that covers the full product life-cycle.
Beginning with the Investigation of Need phase and extending to the Production Process and Launching phase, the MSPD provides guiding questions to help design teams focus on sustainability issues.
“Initial testing in Swedish companies indicates that the MSPD…aids development of products that support society’s transformation towards sustainability. It increases the awareness of the choices in trade-off situations and it was considered instructive by the test groups” (p. 8).
This study highlights the value of guiding questions applied to non-educational contexts that can produce benefits on a global scale.
Guiding questions help students focus their attention on aspects of a lesson or activity that the teacher views as key. Because the questions are phrased in an open-ended manner, students must search for the answers themselves.
This promotes deep cognitive processing of lesson content and helps students develop a sense of responsibility for their learning outcomes.
Although teachers may recognize the utility of guiding questions, they may not always be implemented during instruction. This may be due to a variety of issues, including the sheer variety of question techniques available. There simply may not be time to utilize every possible type of question technique in every lesson.
Research on the effectiveness of guiding questions has demonstrated positive results in some studies, but not all.
Guiding questions have been integrated into sustainable product design with favorable reactions from design teams. This approach keeps the team’s focus on key concerns regarding the environment and fosters product sustainability.
Byggeth, S., Broman, G., & Robèrt, K. H. (2007). A method for sustainable product development based on a modular system of guiding questions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 15(1), 1-11. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2006.02.007
Haagsman, M., Scager, K., Boonstra, J., & Koster, M. (2020). Pop-up questions within educational videos: Effects on students’ learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 29, 713-724. https://soi.org/10.1007/s10956-020-09847-3
Ibrahim, M. (2011). Implications of designing instructional video using cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Critical Questions in Education, 3(2), 83–104.
Kojo, A., Laine, A., & Näveri, L. (2018). How did you solve it?–Teachers’ approaches to guiding mathematics problem solving. LUMAT: International Journal on Math, Science and Technology Education, 6(1), 22-40. Doi: https://doi.org/10.31129/LUMAT.6.1.294
Lawson, T. J., Bodle, J. H., Houlette, M. A., & Haubner, R. R. (2006). Guiding questions enhance student learning from educational videos. Teaching of Psychology, 33(1), 31-33. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15328023top3301_7
Sahin, A., & Kulm, G. (2008). Sixth grade mathematics teachers’ intentions and use of probing, guiding, and factual questions. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 11, 221-241. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10857-008-9071-2