Asking Meaningful Questions with Top Hat

Questions have been long used as an effective technique for teaching and learning as in the Socratic Method where asking and answering is a critical part of the enlightening argumentative dialogue.

Asking interactive questions serves a dual purpose in the classroom:  firstly, it encourages each student to engage and secondly, it paints a broad picture of learning occurring in the classroom and allows for the appropriate modification of the instruction.

Student responses can be tracked or remain anonymous: the latter method is used to ease social anxiety and create space for honest responses.

At the Start of Class

At the beginning of the class time student feedback is used for setting up a stage for new learning. Ask questions that:

  • Assess student prior knowledge
  • Surface misconceptions
  • Encourage student predictions
  • Motivate learning
  • Help to connect previous knowledge with new concepts

During Class

Feedback during learning allows to gauge what students understand and what they struggle to embrace. Ask questions that:

  • Check understanding and retention
  • Create practice opportunities
  • Facilitate group dynamics, collaboration and competition
  • Explain real world applications
  • Probe into student critical thinking

After Class

At the end of instruction feedback is useful for summing up, making connections and evaluating teaching. Ask questions that:

  • Facilitate review and summarization
  • Explain connections between concepts
  • Help to demonstrate performance
  • Assess the quality of learning activities and instruction

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Enhance Questions

(Visit CELT’s Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy website)

Audience response technology can facilitate asking meaningful and impactful questions whether they are very simple helping learners to retain content or very complex encouraging more sophisticated cognitive processes. The following table uses principles from the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to illustrate different types of meaningful multiple-choice questions.

Table 2. The cognitive processes and clicker question examples


Questions imply factual recall and review to gauge learner comprehension.

Recognize, Identify, Recall, Retrieve

Example: Select the most accurate description pointing out the
difference between Fitness Trainers and Certified Athletic Trainers


Questions probe into learner understanding and content interpretation.

Compare, Match, Infer, Generalize

Example: Three wooden blocks of different thickness but of the same composition and density are floating in a tank of water. Assume that the blocks will float only vertically.

Which diagram best illustrates how the blocks will float with respect to the water level?


Questions ask to put learned ideas and concepts to work.

Identify, Select, Predict, Choose

Example: You are a triage nurse in a pediatric urgent care clinic and the following patients are waiting.

Which one patient out of the five described would you triage first?


Questions target relationships concepts and ideas.

Appraise, Calculate, Compare, Infer

Example: Out of five listed steps, select the least essential step for performing a karyotype.

Multiple-choice questions might not be suitable for complex tasks of evaluating and creating.

However, Top Hat allows to move beyond multiple choice questions and ask other question types that might help to collect better data about student learning. For instance, click-on-target questions produce heat maps representing student clicks on an image and become unique ways to engage students and asses their understanding.