Cynthia Koons, RDH, MBA
Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Cynthia Koons - Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 2:11 PM

I found the Questioning Toolkit by Jamie McKenzie fascinating.  Out of the seventeen types of questions, I thought the Probing Questions would be most beneficial to my face-to-face students, as well as online students. McKenzie uses two metaphors to describe Probing Questions and I just loved the metaphors!  Using the first metaphor, McKenzie describes Probing Questions as tools used by archeologists to clear out grime, dust, and debris to get to the heart of the matter.  The second metaphor that McKenzie uses is that of a doctor performing exploratory surgery, never relying on what is seen on the surface, but instead delving deeper into the body. 

Applied to the clinical setting (face-to-face), these metaphors are similar to the actions of a dental hygienist who must clear away the plaque and debris to reach the teeth and gingiva in order to determine periodontal status of the patient. 

One of the first things that should be determined is the risk for the patient to develop periodontal disease.  This may be determined using a periodontal risk assessment.  When the teeth and gingiva have been uncovered via debridement, the Probing Questions would include, “Describe the color, texture, and consistency of the gingiva?”  “Where do bleeding points exist?”; “Which teeth exhibit mobility?”; “What is the measurement of recession?”; “What are the probe depths?”; “What evidence is there of clinical attachment loss?” “Which additional tests or assessments should be completed to confirm the periodontal status of the patient?”

In an online venue, pictures and much information must be provided so that the student can organize the above questions, arrive at the facts, and apply those facts to determine the periodontal status.

Was there one questioning tool in James McKenzie’s Questioning Toolkit that you found could immediately apply to a concept you teach?

The following URL further explains periodontal risk assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning.


McKenzie, J. (1997). A Questioning Toolkit. From Now On: The            

              EducationalTechnology Journal. Vol 7, No 3, November-December.




Picture of Lisa Fitzgerald
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Lisa Fitzgerald - Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 6:24 PM


As I read through McKenzie's toolkit, I was definitely struck by how important the Elaborating Questions are for me as an English instructor.  As we've already been talking about on this discussion board, many students tend to think and write on the surface level, and it's one of my goals to get them to think much more critically and analytically about the material they're reading and writing.  So, by asking them to elaborate upon what they mean by certain terms/ideas, they begin to comprehend just how complex many of the issues we discuss can be.  For example, my freshman composition students are working on their final essays for the class, and we have read and discussed some difficult texts over the last couple of weeks, such as Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience."  When we were discussing the concepts of just versus unjust laws, they thought it would be very simple to agree with the fact that just laws should be followed and unjust laws shouldn't be--end of story. But, through the use of elaboration questions, like "Thoreau argues that slavery is unjust, but what if I'm a slave owner, and I'm benefitting economically?" "How might Thoreau address this question?" They, then, had to go back into the text and realize that Thoreau also talks about utilizing our consciences as we make decisions and that we have a responsibility to the humanity of all people. They were able to begin to make significant connections that brought them closer to major themes in his essay.

My hope is that in asking these types of questions throughout the semester, students begin to internalize the process of questioning and begin to become more thoughtful thinkers. 


Cynthia Koons, RDH, MBA
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Cynthia Koons - Thursday, May 21, 2015, 11:36 AM


I may be able to identify with you.  The Elaborating Questions might be applied to my students when they write for me what I call a "Reflection Paper". (Maybe not the best name.) This assignment is done after professional events that students must attend and also after they read scientific journal articles. Sometimes students do not get to the main point of the article or why/how the professional event imapcts their future.


Picture of Anne Wilkinson
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Anne Wilkinson - Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 9:28 PM


I too found the toolkit fascinating and have bookmarked it!  We have a lot in common as I also teach in the first semester of our progam and have the very beginning students.  The tool that I could use immediately would be the Hypothetical Questions.  I teach a Nursing Skills class for the beginning students and we like to not only have them perform the skill but we like to ask them questions to pompt their reasoning skills.  The what if the patient were a diabetic?  What would you do differently?  What if the patient had dementia, what would you advise the family member?


Cynthia Koons, RDH, MBA
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Cynthia Koons - Thursday, May 21, 2015, 11:46 AM


Actually, I can see myself using the Hypothetical Questions when I teach Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office. What if the first Nitrostat tab does not alleviate the patient's chest pain? What if your patient reports a latex allergy?  How does this effect your treatment? Oh, yes!  We have much in common.


Picture of Sharon Suchla
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Sharon Suchla - Thursday, May 21, 2015, 2:16 PM


There is so much great information here!  I could see myself using almost all types of the questions.  But so as not to repeat anyone, I will say "sorting and sifting".  In education we have become data heavy.  Not all of the data is meaningful and we have to learn how to figure out what is important and what the next steps are.


Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Sheri Perez - Saturday, May 23, 2015, 12:37 PM

Hi Cyndy,

I really enjoyed reading your example and question.  Probing questions are a natural fit in economics too.  I have to convince many students to unlearn definitions to concepts we study and spend a great deal of time pointing out external resources that incorrectly define or describe a concept.  For example, I have many students that believe the terms income and wealth are synonyms and it doesn’t help that it is very easy to find an article that will misuse one or both of the terms.  Using a discussion forum to go back to the basics helps develop the dialog and keep the students focused on the initial prompt. 

Sheri in Las Vegas

Picture of Sheilah Smith
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Sheilah Smith - Sunday, May 24, 2015, 2:21 PM


I really enjoyed your scenario of the type of  questions that you would be asking your students. With my elementary students, I use a lot of clarification questions. Many times they believe they know what certain vocabulary words mean, but when they give presentations, it is obvious that they don't have a clear understanding. A unit that was just finished was Colorado Lifezones where because of the diverse landforms and waterways, Colorado has different kinds of habitats for plants and animals. Adaptations was difficult for students, but a major theme of this unit. I found videos and had students illustrate adaptations of  animals to get the concept across to them. How certain creatures inlifezones have evolved and adapted due to lack of water was also important for students to understand as they analyzed their lifezone's data.

When I train adults, elaboration questions are used frequently. Now that they know how to use a new web tool, where do they go from here? How can they embed it in new or standard curriculum? When teaching Google Forms for example, it was just as important as how they were going to use them in their classrooms as the skill of creating quizzes or surveys. This is where other participants and demonstrating real life examples are critical to implementation.


p.s. I saw Jamie McKenzie give a workshop at an educational conference I attended when he was with Bellingham, WA  public schools. He was amazing.

Cynthia Koons, RDH, MBA
Re: Probing Questions and the Questioning Toolkit
by Cynthia Koons - Sunday, May 24, 2015, 2:48 PM


I think I understand what you are saying. The addition of videos for clarification and the use of web tools meets the needs of visual learners, strengthening the comprehension at all age levels. 

P.S. James!