The best personal qualities we can have beyond school don't simply define what we've learned...
There are so many ways to challenge your learners to boost their critical thinking skills. Of course, one of the best ways is to ask thought-provoking questions. We’ve got plenty of them for you in this big list of critical thinking questions for teachers to use in any classroom.
The following list coincides with the critical thinking skills rubrics we developed and published in our most popular book, the Critical Thinking Companion. In addition to the rubrics, the CT Companion is absolutely packed with critical thinking activities and games your students will really enjoy.
Speaking of enjoyment, we hope you find this list useful in your teaching. You’ll find questions for six different categories which are hallmarks of critical thinking, and each with sub-categories for developing your own critical lines of questioning.
A Huge List Of Critical Thinking Questions for Teachers to Use
Pose these questions to your learners and get them thinking more critically in a flash. They'll also work with building your own personal critical thinking capacity, so you and your learners can actually work with them together. Please feel free to edit and add your own questions to this list too.
Defining the Problem
- What are the details of the challenge we face?
- What do we want to solve?
- Why is this a problem that needs a solution?
- What is the scope of the problem?
- What other problems does this cause that should be noted?
- How easy/difficult do we predict a solution will be?
- What are keywords and why are they important?
- Do my keywords use primary nouns from the content?
- How do my keywords describe my topic?
- How can these keywords help me form relevant questions?
- How do I choose keywords to target specific information?
- What types of keywords yield broader results?
Citing Information Sources
- What is plagiarism and what are its potential consequences?
- What does a proper citation look like?
- What kinds of things do you need to cite?
- When is it necessary to directly quote a source?
- When is it acceptable to paraphrase from a source?
- How can you verify your citations are correct?
- When is it necessary to contact an author for permission to publish?
- How do we construct an accurate, complete, and verifiable bibliography?
Forming Exploratory Questions
- What are my primary information needs?
- What kinds of information am I missing?
- How does understanding the problem help me build a questioning strategy?
- Are my questions clear and concise with a definite purpose?
- How would I rephrase or restate my questions if necessary?
- Do my questions require thoughtful and creative answers?
- Can I develop new questions spontaneously around the problem?
Use of Information
Organizing and Analyzing Data
- Where can I find information about our problem?
- What information do we need to keep?
- What information can be discarded?
- How do we effectively categorize what we've collected?
- What patterns are we seeing in our information, if any?
- How will we check our information sources for reliability?
- How do we differentiate fact from opinion?
- How can we tell our information is answering our original question?
Performing Background Checks on Information
- How can I tell if the information I am using is accurate?
- How can I tell if the information I am using is fact-based?
- Is opinion or bias present in the information?
- What is the author’s purpose for sharing this knowledge?
- Is the author a credible and verifiable source?
- What is the author's breadth of experience with this subject?
Applying Information to the Original Problem
- How can we apply our knowledge to the problem?
- What can we create as a solution using our knowledge?
- How will we know if it's working?
- What's the best way(s) to share this knowledge with others?
- Where did we fall short?
- Where can we improve our processes?
- Where are the opportunities for greater learning here?
Keeping an Open Mind
- What do I truly want to create?
- How will it function?
- What will it look like?
- What past experiences can I use in this idea?
- What idea/idea combinations do I feel most strongly about?
- What speaks to me on the deepest levels?
- What’s my best-case scenario for the end goal?
- Who will benefit from this?
- What would I dream up if I knew there were no limitations for me?
- What are my responsibilities to others?
- How can I learn to communicate with others in the best way?
- What can I do to make my relationships better?
- In what ways am I a citizen of the world, and what does it mean to be one?
- How can I learn best from other people?
- How can I help and support both local and global communities?
- What can I do to respect and understand other cultures, their values, and their beliefs?
- How can I deal positively with criticism?
- How can I use feedback from teachers and peers to do better moving forward?
- What do I do when I fail, and how can I respond better?
- How persistent am I in the face of difficulty?
- Do I look at failure as an ending or as a chance to grow?
- Why is having good communication skills essential to success?
- What are the most common barriers to communicating effectively?
- How can I use my words to help and encourage others?
- Why is listening well crucial in communicating with others?
- What is “active listening” and how can I become better at it?
- What roles do expression, gesture, and pausing play in communicating effectively with others?
- How can I be sure I’m expressing myself and my ideas clearly?
- What are some indications that I am not communicating well?
- Why is being grateful for the help of others important?
- How can I make giving peer feedback meaningful and proactive?
- Am I generally a curious person? Why or why not?
- What is my approach when facing a challenging problem?
- How am I able to handle different perspectives on something?
- Do I naturally ask lots of questions and wonder deeply about things?
- Do I strive to self-improve and broaden my mind?
- What truly excites or interests me?
- Have I ever taught myself how to do anything?
- What are the main ideas of what I am reading or hearing?
- What are the details that are crucial to supporting these ideas?
- What are the main keywords or phrases associated with this?
- What is irrelevant or unnecessary, and can be ignored or discarded?
- If I had only a few sentences to sum this up in a way that makes sense to someone else, what would I say?
- Where exactly did I go wrong?
- Why was this not apparent to me previously?
- What are the most important things I can take from the feedback I have received?
- Where can I improve moving forward?
- Am I able to reflect constructively on this experience?
- What are my next steps in improving future outcomes?
- What were the results of my efforts?
- How did I succeed or fall short of accomplishing my goal?
- What went well, and what didn’t?
- How can I improve my efforts and outcome in the future?
- How can I apply what I’ve done and learned to similar problems?
Establishing a Group Contract
- Who are our main team members?
- What are everyone's individual roles and responsibilities?
- What is our system of communication/accountability?
- What is our main challenge or goal?
- What are the specific criteria we will use to evaluate our outcome?
- How will we encourage progress and accountability?
- How will we ensure the work is distributed equally and fairly?
- What are everyone's individual strengths/weaknesses?
- Who are the primary leadership candidates?
- What are the guidelines and milestones we will set for moving forward?
- How will we ensure top performance from all team members?
- How will we support each other through the process?
- What is the most efficient way to delegate team responsibilities?
- How can we best maximize each team member's strengths?
- What can we do to ensure each team member has an equal opportunity for growth?
- How will we deal with interpersonal conflict?
- What are the ways we can develop an outcome that benefits everyone?
- How will we deal with behaviour we consider to be inappropriate?
- How can we be constructive and ethical when dealing with conflicts?
- How does this set an example for others?
Knowing Personal Abilities
- What are my own personal strengths and weaknesses?
- When am I at my best? When am I at my worst?
- Am I good at switching roles, or do I prefer to stay in one role? Why?
- How do my strengths align with those of others?
- What is most important to me in life?
- What stresses me out or causes me anxiety?
- What makes me happy/sad/angry?
- Overall, what do I think of myself as a person?
- What are my personal values?
Awareness of Limitations
- Where am I most limited and how can I improve this?
- How have I managed to adapt to my personal limitations?
- How can I go beyond them?
- What do I most want to learn about?
- Am I willing to learn and improve?
- What steps can I take to overcome my limitations?
Lifelong Learning Capacity
- What does it mean to be a lifelong learner?
- Do I believe learning lasts a lifetime, or are we done once we leave school?
- What are the benefits of continuing to learn throughout life?
- How has technology enhanced our ability to become lifelong learners?
- What is the purpose of learning?
- Do I enjoy learning? Why or why not?
- How can I connect my learning to the real world and to what interests me?
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Aug 15, 2019, updated September 21, 2021