Question Matrix: How to Develop the Right Questions

Dr. Jamie Schwandt
Oct 30, 2018 · 4 min read

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” — Werner Heisenberg

A question matrix is a tool designed with the purpose of introducing us to a hierarchy to questioning. Designed similar to Bloom’s taxonomy or Higher Order Thinking (HOT) questions.

My intent is to provide a couple tools building on a larger discussion I recently published called Swarm Questions: What Have? What Should? What If?

Here, I will provide two question matrices: Swarm Question Matrix and Swarm Question Critical Thinking Matrix.

They were inspired by the following: Higher Order Thinking Questions via Teachers Pay Teachers, a short video called Question Matrix, and the Elements of Thought Wheel via the Foundation for Critical Thinking.

The following matrices can be used for just about anything. From problem-solving, to argument deconstruction, providing/recording feedback, during interviews or investigations, red teaming, or in determining a students comprehension of a concept.

Swarm Question Matrix

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via

“It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.” — G.K. Chesterton

The Swarm Question Matrix provides us a way to formulate questions that bring about the following understanding: Factual (blue), Predictive (purple), Analytical (red), and Application or Synthesis (green).

This is similar to a tool called The Ladder of Inference, where we make an observation, add meaning to the observation, form assumptions, and then act on those assumptions.

Image via Personal Mastery Coaching

Let’s examine how we can use the Swarm Question Matrix (example for problems in foster care):

#1. Factual-based questions seeking information.

#2. Predictive questions.

#3. Analytical questions.

#4. Application (Synthesis) questions.

Swarm Question Critical Thinking Matrix

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via

“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” — Jonas Salk

The Swarm Question Critical Thinking Matrix provides a way to formulate and think about more complex questions similar to using the Elements of Thought Wheel or Bloom’s taxonomy of questions.

This matrix is a powerful way to assist us when receiving or providing feedback. It can also help us in the development of feedback questions.

As discussed in Swarm Learning: How Student Feedback Changes a Class In Progress, I am using Feedback Maps to change my class while in progress. I am using this matrix to assist me in the development of feedback questions for my class. Let’s take a look.

#1. Questions for Purpose, the Problem, Information, and Concepts targeting Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, and Depth.

#2. Questions for Assumptions, Implications, and Perspective targeting Breadth, Logic, Significance, and Fairness.

The Swarm Matrices discussed here are powerful and creative tools for anyone. My hope is that this discussion provided a brief, but immediately applicable tool for spotting the right questions.

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” — Antony Jay

Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Written by

Dr. Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an American author, L6S master black belt, and red teamer.

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