10 Types of Questions for Diversifying Classroom Discussions
Questions can be used to gauge knowledge and understanding. They may also be used to challenge students to think in new ways. Below are several types of questions that you can ask your students in order to stimulate thought, engage students, and foster discussion.
Exploratory: Discover basic knowledge and facts.
- What is the meaning of ____________?
- What research supports ____________?
Challenge: Analyze assumptions, perceptions, conclusions, and interpretations.
- What assumptions underlie ____________?
- How else could we interpret ____________?
Relational: Identify common themes, ideas, and issues.
- How does ____________ relate to ____________?
- How are ____________ and ____________ similar and different?
Diagnostic: Uncover motives or causes.
- Why did ____________ do what they did?
- What was their motivation for doing ____________?
Action: Develop a conclusion, next step, or an appropriate action.
- In response to ____________, what should ____________ do?
- Based on your analysis of ____________, what actions would you advise?
Cause-and-effect: Determine causal relationships.
- What caused ____________ to occur?
- If the government stopped doing ____________, what would happen to ____________?
Extension: Elaborate on a previous point.
- How does ____________ relate to what we studied earlier?
- How is this similar and different to what we studied earlier?
Hypothetical: Consider alternative or speculative issues or ideas.
- If ____________ had happened instead of ____________, what would the outcome be?
- How would ____________ change if ____________ occurred?
Priority: Decide what is most important.
- What is the most important cause of ____________?
- What should we do first?
Summary: Synthesize discussions, lessons, and ideas.
- What are the key points that we have discussed?
- What themes are starting to emerge?
1. What are my learning objectives for the class discussion?
Before determining your discussion questions, determine your learning objectives. Then you can plan your discussion questions in order to strategically emphasize specific levels of learning as defined by your learning objectives.
2. What types of questions will I ask?
Learning objectives can lead you to the best types of questions to ask your students. For instance, if your learning objectives for the class revolve around remembering content, exploratory questions may be appropriate. However, if your learning objectives involve analysis, cause-and-effect questions may be more appropriate.
3. How many discussion questions should I plan in advance?
Plan more questions than you anticipate you will need. As the discussion proceeds, select and discard questions depending on the direction the discussion moves.
4. What order should I pose the discussion questions?
Initial questions should encourage students to participate and allow students to be successful. You may choose to organize questions from simple to complex, easy to difficult, or conceptually. The key to successful discussions is to make students feel comfortable and confident, which improves the likelihood of participation.
5. How focused are my discussion questions?
Questions that are too broad can lead to vague answers and discussions that stray away from key objectives. Focus questions enough to keep discussions on topic.
6. How will I structure the discussion?
Consider the goals of your discussion, the sizes of your groups, how you will call on students, and the arrangement of your classroom. Your structure, expectations, and participation ground rules can influence the success of your discussion. For example, you may structure a brainstorming discussion with students sitting in a circle and each student sequentially shares an idea. You may design a debate with teams of students facing each other to represent two sides of an issue, and team representatives present their case within a specified amount of time.
7. How will I capture the essence of the discussion?
It is important to determine how you’ll capture the lessons that were learned through the discussion. For example, you might write key points on the board, or you could have 1-2 students take notes, synthesize ideas, and share them with the class in written or verbal form.