QUESTION STRATEGIES FOR SUPPORTING PROBLEM SOLVING
WHY ASK QUESTIONS? Questioning is one of the most fundamental cognitive components that guide human reasoning (Graesser, Baggett, & Williams, 1996). “It could be argued that questions are at the heart of virtually any complex task that an adult performs” (Graesser & Olde, 2003, p. 524), especially problem solving. Problems are situations for which an answer or solution is unknown, that is, a question to be answered in some context (Jonassen, 2007). Given that all problems include unknowns, it should be obvious that asking and answering questions are essential to problem solving. In order to solve problems, it is important that learners acquire the skills and strategies of question asking as well as question answering. What do I know about the situation? Is that a normal state? Where is the likely fault? What is causing that fault? How can I correct that fault? Questions are asked when people experience cognitive disequilibrium while solving problems, which is triggered by contradictions, anomalies, obstacles, salient contrasts, and uncertainty (Graesser & Olde, 2003). They presented learners with troubleshooting tasks and found that those who comprehended the device better asked no more questions than those with shallow comprehension; however, they generated higher-quality questions in order to produce better explanations of the device they were troubleshooting. That is, the quality of question asked is a stronger indicator of comprehension, not the quantity. The best questions were explanation-based such as:
• why did X occur; • how did X occur; • what are the consequences of X; • what if X occurs; • what if X does not occur.