Much of our teaching practice involves asking our students questions, whether during class, as part of a homework assignment or writing assignment, or on an exam. We also know from the research literature that nearly all effective teaching methods involve having our students answer questions and solve problems (everything from think-pair-share and the Socratic method to things like Team-Based Learning and case studies).
So asking good questions is important—but few faculty have been trained in how to design them, and we often make mistakes, asking questions that students can answer without deep understanding, or that fail to stimulate the discussion we were hoping for, or that are simply too easy or too hard. Sometimes, we know our questions aren’t the best, but we aren’t sure how to improve them. Luckily for us, there is now a significant literature on the topic, some of the lessons of which aren’t intuitive. For example, sometimes asking “ill-defined questions,” those that contain either more or less information than is needed to answer the question, may be better than asking perfectly clear and concise ones.
Through reading and discussing the work of those who have studied how to write good questions, as well as helping each other think about and change the questions we ask in our own courses, this FLC, which met in AY 2018-19, aimed to improve the engagement of their students, the effectiveness of their assessments, and ultimately, the quality of their students’ learning.
Gautom Das (Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering)
Felipe Filomeno (Political Science)
Cody Goolsby-Cole (Physics)
Nancy Kusmaul (Social Work)
Sarah Leupen, Facilitator (Biological Sciences)
Kalman Nanes (Mathematics & Statistics)
Donald Snyder (Media & Communication Studies)
Liz Stanwyck (Mathematics & Statistics)
Fernando Vonhoff (Biological Sciences)