Even though it’s way up there on Bloom’s Taxonomy, the “Evaluate” level can easily lead to fluffy, low-thinking questions. But we want to ask interesting questions that make our students think (and that give us something interesting to read!).
Consider a prompt like this:
Which is your favorite planet?
Yes, this question has multiple right answers but it doesn’t require the kind of deep thinking we want from the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Kids can just blurt out literally any planet with any justification. “MARS!” Oh, why? “Um, it’s red?”
Pure opinion questions don’t often reveal the kind of interesting thinking that we want to provoke. So let’s make a small change.
Just Add Criteria
Enter criteria. Rather than “What’s your favorite planet?” try:
- Which is the most useful planet?
- Which is the most surprising planet?
- Which planet is most valuable?
Do you see how criteria works as a lens, allowing us to see the same content in multiple different ways? Students have to think in order to answer these questions. I’m less likely to get thoughtless blurting.
Upgrade with a Perspective
Now, you might have reacted by thinking, “Well, it depends…” So let’s get more specific and add a twist. We’ll ask students about this criteria from 👓 a specific perspective (or two):
- Which is the most useful planet to… 👓 a geologist? How would it be different for 👓 an astronomer?
- Which would be the most surprising planet to a child compared to a great grandparent?
- Which planet is most valuable to an author who writes fiction compared to a journalist?
Ooo! Now those questions are definitely not fluff!
Reduce the Possibilities
Whenever we want kids to go deeper, we need to restrict the breadth of our questioning. That is, if you want depth, you also need to narrow things down.
Nine, er, eight planets is a lot to consider. So perhaps restrict it to three:
Which of these planets would most valuable to a journalist: Jupiter, Mars, or Neptune?
I think that’s a juicy question. I’d be quite interested to read my students’ responses.
And consider the difference in thinking required from:
- “What’s your favorite animal?” vs “Which mammal might a farmer consider the most dangerous?”
- “What’s better, fractions or decimals?” vs “When would a chef find fractions more useful than decimals? How about the other way around?”.
- “What’s the best country” vs “Which country would be most interesting to a painter? Portugal, Vietnam, or Tunisia?” (Later follow up with: “What would a musician think?”)
Note how these questions allow for a range of responses. Your most advanced students have the room to go deep.
Always Build Up
Finally, for students to successfully answer these questions, we must build them into a thoughtful sequence of scaffolded prompts. We cannot jump straight to evaluate or our students answers will be all over the place. Students need to remember the basic facts. They need to compare and contrast or form some categories. Only then are they going to be ready to dig deep into an evaluate-level question.
- Jot down at least ten facts about each of these three plants: Mars, Jupiter, Neptune.
- What key fact makes each of these planets unique?
- Which planet would an author of fiction find most valuable?
- How would a journalist disagree with that author?
Always ask questions in a scaffolded sequence. You’ll get much better responses.
And, yes, I do know that the singular of criteria is “criterion”, but 🤷.
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