Writing Great Discussion Questions

I’m currently finishing up writing a class for the Adventist Virtual Learning Network that starts on February 27: Integrating Technology with Pathways: Themes 5-9.

One of my strong beliefs about online learning is the power of interaction. And most great interaction happens in an asynchronous discussion area IF the questions are well designed.

I’ve seen many boring, stilted, uninviting discussion areas. Have you?

Photo by Open Knowledge Foundation

What makes them engaging?

  1. Connections to experience. We all know students learn best when they connect new knowledge to prior knowledge (Presseisen, 1995). Include questions that invite students to connect the new learning / reading / articles to their previous experience. My class is for teachers, so I ask questions that connect their experience to the required reading articles.
  2. Choice & Variety. Nothing is worse that having one question with a correct answer. What a discussion killer! I build at least three question sets to start the discussion, and then require two. This allows choice and builds in variety to the initial responses to the questions (Stilborne & Williams, 1996).
  3. Substance. To get substance in the conversation, I require the participants to reference the reading, reflect on their own experience, and react to each other (for more, see Akin & Neal, 2007). This usually generates a substantive conversation. If not, I nudge the conversation further by asking more questions.

What about you? What works for your online discussion areas?

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