Open-Ended Questions

(c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D

Research has shown time and time again that if we pose a close-ended question, our students will elicit a minimal amount of answers. However, we can draft the same question using the following question starters that provoke higher level thinking coupled with brainstorming.

In the beginning, you will find that it is hard to draft an open-ended question. However, with time, it will become easier and easier until it becomes habit. So, how do you break the habit? Use this simple technique:

1. Begin by drafting a good quality question. Here are some samples:

2. Utilize one of the following open-ended question starters: These are suggestions or you can write your own-          Open Ended Question

  • For what reasons…
  • In what ways…
  • Describe in detail…
  • Explain specifically….
  • Generate a list….
  • Brainstorm as many reasons for…

3. Select the starter that makes the most sense for your question.

  • Why did the American Revolution begin? (changes to:)
  • For what reasons did the American Revolution begin?

  • Who was Helen Keller? (changes to:)
  • Describe in detail the life of Helen Keller.

  • Where does mold grow? (changes to:)
  • Generate a list of all the places where mold can grow.

  • What technique did the cubists use? (changes to:)
  • Explain in detail the technique that the cubists used.

  • How does a musical score affect a story line in a movie? (changes to:)
  • In what ways does a musical score affect the story line in a movie?

At first, you will find that you will have to draft the open-ended questions ahead of class time. Before you know it, with practice and repetition, you will begin to draft them in your head without the use of paper.

Be open to being a learner, as it takes practice. So when you find that you have just posed a good quality- but close-ended question- to your students, repeat it. Tell that class, “Let me repeat the question,” and rephrase it in an open-ended manner. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Do you have another question starter that you would like us to add to the list? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)


Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

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About Andi Stix

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9 Responses to Open-Ended Questions

  1. Cláudia says:

    Incredibly good post. I like how you took normal questions and opened them up. It just shows us how all of our questions have great potential.

  2. Beatrice says:

    Useful ! Great post! Thanks for sharing your view on the topic! I’d like to use this at my staff meeting. May I distribute it to them?

    • Andi Stix says:

      Absolutely. It is my pleasure to have you share my work as long as you site the author. My posts have been shared by many and am happy that you find the post easy and simple to follow. Thank you.

  3. Afonsina says:

    These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content that I can share with my staff. So I’m happy to find so many good points in this article. Your writing is simply great, thank you for the post. Will contact you for staff development.

  4. Lyle says:

    This site has got a lot of very helpful information on it. Cheers for sharing it with me. I teach social studies and find that the open-ended approach works really well with the students. It’s always nice to find new strategies.

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