Construct Good Discussion Questions
The opportunity for learning through discussions will only be as good as the discussion questions that are asked. Ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" or by a recitation of facts. Questions should allow diverse points of view, reflection and critical thinking. A good online discussion question will give students a chance to apply what they have learned to a particular problem.
- Make sure students know the purpose of the discussion assignment.
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage students to reflect and analyze. Such questions may begin with terms such as "Imagine," "Defend," "Justify," "What would happen if . . .," "Suppose," etc.
- Since adult learners prefer a "problem-based" approach to learning develop questions that apply critical thinking to "real life" issues (i.e. to apply knowledge in a way that requires students to recognize assumptions, implications, and consequences).
- Create scenarios or problems that will require students to seek more information. (Problem solving requires that students recognize what information is needed for analysis and application).
- Expect to reformulate, restate, and refine the question as the discussion progresses. This is part of facilitating the discussion (see next page).
- Make sure that your discussion question and the expected learning outcomes align with the student learning outcomes for your course!
Continue to the next page for suggestions on facilitating online discussions.