Journal of Philosophy in Schools (2015-11-01)

Open thinking, closed questioning: Two kinds of open and closed question

  • Peter Worley

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2, no. 2
pp. 17 – 29


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In this paper, I identify a confusion that follows from how open and closed questions are ordinarily understood. I draw a distinction between two kinds of open and closed question: ‘grammatical’ open and closed questions and ‘conceptual’ open and closed questions. I claim that this distinction resolves a confusion identified in the first part of this paper and I reply to anticipated, possible objections to the distinction. The second part of the paper describes a practical questioning strategy called ‘the question X’ that I have developed, making use of the distinction from the first part of the paper. The question X shows how the best of both closed-ended questioning and open-ended questioning can be combined in classroom questioning to maintain the focus and specificity of closed questioning while also maintaining the richness and invitation to say more of open questioning. In addition, the strategy of the question X also encourages the formulation of standard form thinking and expression in those questioned.