Getting Started with Incorporating Effective Questions in a Course

Although the most common way to ask a question is to pose it to the entire class, this may result in nobody volunteering to answer the question or only a few students attempting to answer it. Questions can be incorporated in a course in a variety of other ways:

  • Think-pair-share/Write-pair-share.
  • Small group discussions.
  • Minute papers or short, low-risk writing activities.
  • Classroom polling systems with which students can answer questions using clickers or mobile devices. Answers are tallied instantly, and results can be displayed as they come in.
  • Allow students to create their own questions, such as:
    • Ask them to write questions they have about a topic or reading. Consider asking students to post them to an online forum before class.
    • Quiz their neighbor on the lecture content or readings.
    • Write down one or two remaining questions a few minutes before class ends and turn them in.
    • Design questions to guide a small group discussion.
    • Suggest and submit exam questions.

Encourage students to answer questions by creating positive classroom norms and expectations:

  • Provide enough time for students to respond to questions. Let students handle awkward silences.
  • Encourage student responses even if they are wrong. If a student is wrong, inaccurate, or unclear, respond with probing questions such as, "That's interesting. What makes you say that?" or "Could you rephrase that?"
  • Ask for students to respond to each other.
  • State the relevance of a student’s response to the topic or use a student’s answer to your question as a link to some part of the topic framework in order to increase interaction and participation.
  • See additional suggestions on creating a positive classroom climate.