Levels of Thinking and Questioning

Costa's Levels of Inquiry

Inquiry is an important aspect of curriculum. Inquiry-based learning focuses on the student as learner, developing skillful, open-ended questioning skills. Being able to recognize different levels of questions is beneficial for all students in many areas of learning. Understanding the three levels of questions explained below, designed by Art Costa, is critical for student success.

Level One Questions (Text Explicit)

Readers can point to one correct answer right in the text. Words found in these questions include:

  • defining
  • observing
  • describing
  • naming
  • identifying
  • reciting
  • noting
  • listing

Level 1 statement

  • Define irony. (English)
  • Identify the starting date of the American Revolution. (History)
  • Define tangent. (Math)
  • Define photosynthesis. (Science)

Level Two Questions (Text Implicit)

Readers infer answers from what the text implicitly states, finding answers in several places in the text. Words found in these questions include:

  • analyzing
  • grouping
  • synthesizing
  • comparing/contrasting
  • inferring
  • sequencing

Level 2 Statement

  • Compare and contrast Mr. Frank and Mr. Van Daan in Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. (English)
  • Analyze the causes of the American Revolution. (History)
  • Compare the square root of 49 to the square root of 64. Which is greater? (Math)
  • Diagram and order the stages of photosynthesis. (Science)

Level Three Questions (Experience Based)

Readers think beyond what the text states. Answers are based on
reader’s prior knowledge/experience and will vary. Words found in these questions include:

  • evaluating
  • judging
  • applying a principle
  • speculating
  • imagining
  • predicting
  • hypothesizing

Level 3 Statement

  • Predict how Charlie Gordon will change after his operation in Flowers for Algernon. (English)
  • Imagine you were a soldier fighting in the Civil War. How would you feel? (History)
  • Apply the Pythagorean theorem to the find the measurement of this triangle. (Math)
  • Diagram the stages of photosynthesis and predict how long each takes. (Science)
Costa Question Starters.pdf, 240.11 KB; (Last Modified on November 2, 2012)