Good Discussions

What are Some Good Types of Questions to Use to Generate Discussions?

That depends. Questions that work well in the middle of a discussion may not work well at the beginning. Sequencing matters. Here are some possibilities:

1) Starter Questions: To start, ask everyone to say something. Arthur McEvoy, a former fellow of the Searle Teaching Center used what he called "the Minute Around." He took off his watch, told the student to his right (or left), " you have one minute to say whatever you want to say. When the minute is up, I'll stop you, give you the watch and you will time the person next to you, and so forth around the class until everyone has had a minute."

With Starter Questions, you can get everyone involved quickly. McEvoy's Minute Around exercise can work extremely well at the beginning of a term. The longer it takes a shy student to make his or her first statement, the more difficult it becomes for them.

Other Examples of Starter Questions?
For Starter Questions: You might ask everyone to answer these two questions:
a) what major conclusion did you draw from yesterday's lecture (or in-class discussion or reading assignment);
b) what major questions remain in your mind?

Ask Everyone to take one-two minutes to write their response to these questions.

Next, ask each person to share what they wrote with a person sitting nearby.

Finally, call on a few groups to report their conversation.

(Think, Pair, Share)

Other Types of Questions?

2) Muddiest point question:What point (from the reading, lectures, discussion, etc.) was most unclear to you?

3) Exploratory questions: What are the key facts (in this case, that we should use to solve the problem, in this reading, etc.) What are the key definitions? What is the problem? Can you summarize the interpretations you just read?

4) Testing questions: Are there any good solutions? What are the possibilities? What are the implications of accepting this interpretation? What are the problems in doing so?

5) Relational questions:What solutions (ideas) have we considered; how do we compare and contrast solutions?

6) Priority questions: Which is the best solution (idea)? Why?What do you reject? Why?

7) Concluding questions:What have we learned here? What are the implications of our conclusions? What questions remain unanswered? How do we answer these questions?

Some General Points:

1. Allow students to write before they talk
2. Allow them to talk in pairs before they talk in groups
3. Allow them to talk in small groups before talking in larger groups.

At the end of the class:

Ask students to take three minutes to give you immediate written feedback to two questions:
1. What major conclusion(s) did you draw from today's class?
2. What major question(s) remain in your mind?