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How can I learn to ask "good" questions?

If you want vibrant and lively discussion among your students, begin asking questions on the first day of class. Facilitating a productive discussion requires asking questions which engage the interest and curiosity of the students. Ask open questions that cannot simply be answered “yes” or “no” or with a single “right” answer. Invite students to analyze, synthesize or evaluate course material. “Why?” and “How?” can be more productive for discussion than “What?”

If the question is relevant to their lives in some way, it generates even more interest. Good questions need to be difficult enough to be challenging, but not overwhelming and this is where real teaching skills are apparent. Good questions ask students to apply what they know in new and different ways.

When a student answers a question ask for clarification and examples if appropriate. Draw out the most productive answer the student is capable of giving. Be sure to acknowledge the contribution positively.

Be willing to challenge a response to a question by asking a student to support their reasoning or beliefs. Help your students understand that in discussions they are further developing their skills as a scholar.

And, finally, wait. Give students time to consider the question, formulate and answer and find the courage to speak out among their peers.

Some examples:

What are your reasons for saying that?
What other information do we need to know?
Is there good evidence for believing that?
What do you think the cause is?
When you say___, are you implying that____?”
Could you be more specific?
What would this look like from the point of view of ___?