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The Miniature Guide to the Art of Asking Essential Questions

The Miniature Guide to the Art of Asking Essential Questions

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Published by: IWantToBelieve8728 on Sep 03, 2008
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03/08/2012

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The Miniature GuidetoThe Art of 
 AskingEssential Questions
by Dr. Linda ElderandDr. Richard Paul
Based onCritical Thinking Concepts and Socratic PrinciplesThe Foundation for Critical Thinking
 
© 2005 Foundation for Critical Thinkingwww.criticalthinking.orgThe Miniature Guide to the Art of Asking Essential Questions
Dear Reader:This miniature guide introduces the art of asking essential questions.Itis best used in conjunction with
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking
and
The Miniature Guide to How to Study and Learn
.The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our thinking.The quali-ty of our thinking, in turn, is determined by the quality of our questions, for questions are the engine, the driving force behind thinking.Without ques-tions, we have nothing to think about.Without essential questions, we oftenfail to focus our thinking on the significant and substantive.When we ask essential questions, we deal with what is necessary, rele-vant, and indispensable to a matter at hand.We recognize what is at theheart of the matter.Our thinking is grounded and disciplined.We areready to learn.We are intellectually able to find our way about.To be successful in life, one needs to ask essential questions:essentialquestions when reading, writing, and speaking;when shopping, work-ing, and parenting;when forming friendships, choosing life-partners, andinteracting with the mass media and the Internet.Yet few people are masters of the art of asking essential questions.Mosthave never thought about why some questions are crucial and othersperipheral.Essential questions are rarely studied in school.They are rarelymodeled at home.Most people question according to their psychologicalassociations.Their questions are haphazard and scattered.Essential questions fall into a range of categories.Some essential ques-tions are principally analytic, some principally evaluative.Some applypredominantly to academic subjects, others to our innermost thoughts,feelings, and desires. As you might expect, the categories and lists of essential questions inthis mini-guide are illustrative, not exhaustive.Furthermore, the ideaswe provide are useful only to the extent that they are employed daily toask essential questions.
Practice
in asking essential questions eventual-ly leads to the
habit 
of asking essential questions.But we can never practice asking essential questions if we have no conception of them.This mini-guide is a starting place for understanding concepts that,when applied, lead to essential questions.Sincerely,Richard PaulCenter for Critical ThinkingLinda Elder Foundation for Critical Thinking
 
Third Edition© 2005 Foundation for Critical Thinkingwww.criticalthinking.org
Table of Contents
Introduction:The Power of Essential Questions . . . . . . . . .3Part One:Analytic Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Questioning the Structure of Thinking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5–8 Asking One System, No System, and Conflicting System Questions . .9Questioning Dogmatic Absolutism and Subjective Relativism . . . . . . .10Questioning Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11–12Conceptual Tools for Conceptual Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13–14Questioning Data, Information, and Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15Questioning Questions:Identifying Prior Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Asking Complex Interdisciplinary Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17Interdisciplinary Questions:An Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18Questioning in Decision-Making and Problem-Solving . . . . . . . . .19–20
Part Two:Evaluative Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
Determining Value, Merit, and Worth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21Evaluating Reasoning (Overall) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22–23Evaluating Reasoning (The Parts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24Questioning Clarity and Precision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25Questioning As We Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26Questioning As We Write . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Asking Ethical Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28–30Questioning Bias and Propaganda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31
Part Three:Questioning Within Academic Disciplines . . .32
Questioning the Fundamental Logic of Academic Disciplines . . . .32–33Questioning the Status of Disciplines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34Questioning to Understand the Foundations of Academic Disciplines .35–37
Essential Questions in Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35–36
Essential Questions in the Social Disciplines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
Essential Questions in the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36–37
Part Four:Questioning for Self-Knowledgeand Self-Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38
Questioning Ourselves as Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38–39Questioning Our Egocentrism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40–41Questioning Our Sociocentrism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42Questioning to Develop Intellectual Dispositions . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43–44
Conclusion:Questioning Systematicallyand Socratically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45–47

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