Effective questions

Effective questions

  • Use closed-ended questions to get specific bits of information
  • Use open-ended questions to expand on answers
  • Use varied questions

Closed-ended questions

  • Used to elicit specific information.
  • Useful for directing students.
  • Useful for fast interactions.
  • Useful to get students interacting and starting discussion.
  • Useful for checking understanding.

Open-ended questions

  • Used to expand on answers to closed-ended questions.
  • Useful for allowing students to explain their understanding.
  • Useful for stimulating students to higher-order reasoning and understanding.

Direct questions to specific students or to the class generally. In a large online group, most questions should be fast, close-ended questions directed to the class in general, with a means for them all to respond (e.g. via chat, or icon selection). General questions include all students, whereas if you direct all questions to specific students, the rest of the class may tune out. There is also the risk that the selected student may not answer, and you need to know what you are going to do then. You don’t want to end up directing all your questions to the three or four students you know will respond as this effectively excludes the rest of the students. On the other hand, if a student is being very quiet, a question directed to them may be very appropriate.

Examples of closed-ended questions:

When visiting a breakout group:

  • What answer did you get for question 1?” (This assumes that they have been working on the material and have completed Q1. If they haven’t they will need to justify why to you. If they have, then you get to discuss the maths with them. This is a better question than“How are you going?” or “What question are you working on?”, or “do you need any help?”

In a teacher-led session:

  • Will the answer be more or less than 6.3? Write your answer in the chat.
  • What answer did you get for Q2? Write your answer in the chat.”
  • Annotate the whiteboard and mark your answer on the number line.”
  • There are a number of methods you could use to get to the answer. What method did you use to get to the answer? Write up your method on the shared whiteboard.
  • What theorem could we apply here? Write your answer in the chat.
  • “I have set up a poll for you. Please choose the three questions that you most want me to go through. When you’ve all voted, we will go through the questions in the order you selected.

Examples of open-ended questions

When visiting a breakout group:

  • (Having seen some group work on the shared screen): “ <Student Name> , can you explain your solution to this question to me?” This is more effective than “How did you get from here to here?” Students may need to explain the working from the beginning in order to be able to explain a step halfway through the solution. This way you can see exactly what they do understand, and you can ask more questions of them, and of the group, as they go through the explanation.

In a teacher-led session:

  • Why do I need to put a minus sign here?
  • I see that we have a few different answers for this question. Could someone explain how they got $5\ln(\pi +3)$?” (And then ask someone to explain the other answer. The students should hopefully get involved and decide which is the correct answer themselves while you sit back and watch.)

Vary your questions

  • Mix up your questions. Ask yes/no questions, give-me-the-correct-answer questions, short answer questions, opinion questions, how-do-I questions, why questions, what-would-happen-if questions and whatever else seems appropriate.
  • Vary the questions, but don’t use too many response modes. Don’t do one by poll, then one by chat, then one by icon, etc. Pick a response mode and use mostly it (e.g. chat or annotation and/or voice).