Questioning and Brain Research


One of the major focus areas in educational reform today is research related to the brain and brain-compatible learning. Teachers' effective use of a variety of higher-order questions can overcome the brain's natural tendency to limit information. In turn, students' minds can become more open to new ideas and creative mental habits.

Cardellichio and Field (Educational Leadership, March 1997) attach the label “neural pruning” to our brain's natural inclination to develop mental routines and patterns in response to critical stimuli. These researchers suggest that teachers can extend students' ability to attend to many stimuli through the process of “neural branching.”

Current research indicates that the use of a variety of higher-order questions in an open-ended and nurturing educational environment strengthens the brain—creating more synapses between nerve cells—just as exercise builds muscle tissue.

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This site was developed by the Department of Staff Development, in collaboration with the Division of Instruction. Questions, comments, and other inquiries may be addressed to Allene Chriest ( or Jeff Maher  (