- Create an open-ended, real world, discussion question.
- Create an open-ended discussion question that requires multiple perspectives.
- Create an open-ended discussion question where participants self-reflect.
An online discussion question needs to be relevant and have a clear purpose , for students to interact in meaningful ways. If the online discussion question is irrelevant – from the learners perspective (what really counts when considering student engagement) the discussion will fail.
Effective discussion questions share ten (10) characteristics, no matter what type, style, or frequency of use. Taking the time to develop effective discussions that include these characteristics is a significant part of the instructional design of any online class
- Generate interest
- Use questions that facilitate critical thinking, not “just the facts” or bland text book publisher questions.
- Can be applied to everyday life or professional goals.
- Provide clear explicit instructions.
- Receive points and/or graded.
- Reflect a substantial percentage of the course grade that is appropriate, feasible, and significant.
- Provide a rubric or other evaluation tool that details the evaluation process.
- Require replies to other participants.
- Include effective facilitation and summarizations.
Questions to Consider When Planning Discussion Forum Activities
- How do the ideas & information to be discussed fit into the course as a whole?
- What skills, knowledge, perspectives, or sensibilities do you want students to walk away from the discussion with?
- How will you make sure your students meet those objectives?
- Effective questioning strategies guide discussions and promote critical interaction.
- Learners need to have time to process questions and develop responses that match the cognitive level of the questions asked.
- Higher level cognitive and affective questions encourage learners to interpret, analyze, evaluate, infer, explain and self regulate.
- One of the primary reasons for using discussion boards is to build a community of learners.
- Online discussions allow students to become part of a vibrant learning community,rather thanan just an independent learner completing & submitting assignments with no real peer interaction.
Writing Good Prompts: Use a Three Point Design Strategy
Design Strategy 1: Align Prompts with Objectives
Before you even begin writing your discussion prompts, look at your module or unit level objectives – what knowledge and skills do you want students to develop in your course? Connect your questions to your objectives.We highly recommend using Bloom’s taxonomy to write your learning objectives.
The objectives should be student-centered and measureable. Depending on the learning objective, using Bloom’s Taxonomy will provide a starting place for you to design an appropriate level of question. Knowledge and comprehension focused questions (i.e., “Identify” or “define” type questions) do not generally lead to quality discussions, unless they are tied to higher order thinking. The lower level questions tend to have one right answer and do not encourage a variety of responses.
Design Strategy 2: Write Open-Ended Questions
All too often, discussion prompts have only one answer and do not generate discussion – everyone has the same answer. In addition to aligning your prompts with your objectives, think about questions that will elicit different responses from each student.
Types of Open-Ended Questions
- Introductions – Introductions serve a dual purpose – as a way of building a learning community by getting to know each other and to practice using the discussion tool in a non-threatening way (no prior knowledge needed; not graded).
- Ice Breakers – Ice Breakers are designed to get students thinking about the material or concepts and build connections with peers. If these exercises are not assessing an objective, they are not graded.
- Clarifying Explanations – These questions usually start at the lower level of thinking skills but build to a higher level. Students are generally asked to clarify a concept and then demonstrate their knowledge and comprehension of concepts by referencing instructional materials.
- Question Assumptions – Instead of asking students if they agree with a particular statement, try asking the following questions instead: What other explanations might account for this? What are the assumptions behind this statement?
- Explore Additional Evidence – This type of prompt asks students to identify additional evidence supporting or refuting a concept or idea. It may also ask students to explore a concept more deeply by ranking or justifying their thought process.
- Multiple Perspectives – These prompts allow students to express different ideas, theories or opinions.
- Real World Implications – This type of prompt asks students to demonstrate knowledge of a concept by applying it to a real work example.
- Self-Reflective Processes – Reflective activities require students to share a synthesis of the learning experience, or to describe how a situation or experience has personal value to them.
Review the Discussion Question Examples document for more ideas on purposes and types of questions one can ask.
Design Strategy 3: Check Your Questions
Use the rubric below to review your discussion prompts. This tool can be used to determine whether or not your prompts will promote active discussion.
Rubric for Creating Online Discussion Questions
Use the rubric below to determine whether or not your prompts will engage students in discussion. If you answer “Yes” to each question, your prompt is well designed.
Rubric for Creating Online Discussion Questions
|1. Does this question directly relate to
a learning objective?
|2. Do students have the background knowledge needed to answer this question? (Not limited to facts)|
|3. Is there more than one answer to the question?|
|4. Will this question promote original insights, which promote further discussion?|
|5. Is there room for further contribution if the first poster thoroughly answers the question?|
Different Types of Discussions
This week you will be asked to decide on which types you want to use in each week of your online course
|Type Of Discussion||Discussion Question Examples|
Depth (go beyond the surface and deal with complexity)
|The media discusses some of the implications of accurate and specific earthquake prediction. Given the possible socio economic impacts and the tendency of humans to downplay the threat of hazards, to what extent should scientists pursue the ability to accurately forecast earthquakes? What would make accurate predictions worthwhile or not worthwhile? Are certain industries or groups more likely to be supportive of earthquake prediction and others against? Who are these groups and why would they feel this way? (GEOG)|
|Application||You are asked to find out what is inside a wooden box, but you are not allowed to look inside it. How could you find out what is inside? How is this question related to the scientific method? (MARN)|
|Warm Up Discussion Activity||From your recollections of studying geography in grade school or high school, what tradition or traditions were most prominent in the material of your courses? Give some examples. (GEOG)|
|Reflection, Multiple Perspectives||I want you to consider these images without doing any research at all about them. For each image, describe exactly what you see. Do you like the images? Is one “better” than the other? (ART)|
|Questioning Assumptions, Multiple Perspectives||How democratic is the United States? In what ways are we clearly democratic and in what ways do you think we may be less so or not at all? (POLS)|
|Analysis, Clarifying Explanations||What changes (if any) do you believe should be made to the social security system of the United States? (GEOG)|
|Multiple Perspectives, Real World Implications||As we are discussing civil liberties this week, I thought that we should examine a current issue: the balance between liberty and security. Have we given up too many of our civil liberties in the face of the threat we face today, or have the actions of the federal government been necessary given these threats? (POLS)|
|Clarifying Explanations, Real World Implications, Synthesis||If you were a middle manager for a large insurance company, what recommendations could you make to assist a senior level team faced with the challenge of age stratification in the workforce? (Adapted for MGMT)|
|Clarifying Explanations, RealWorld Implications||Human society creates a lot of waste and we need to do something with it once it has been formed. Do you think that the deep sea is a good place to dump waste? Some types of waste? Why or why not? Are there places in the deep sea that may be better than others? Why? (MARN)|
|Introduction: Building a Community of Learners||Please introduce yourself to your classmates. In addition to sharing your name, feel free to add information about yourself that may help others get to know you and work with you on various class activities. As desired, you may also want to let others know why you are taking this course and about your interest in this subject.|
In the news today there is much discussion about the relationships among the
branches of government, and whether the balance of power among them is correct. Does the current balance of power among the three branches works effectively, or is a change is needed?
|Multiple Perspectives||Both Reading 1 and Reading 2 suggest that there are sharp contradictions between “Western” values and actual “Western” behavior. What are these contradictions and how do you interpret the apparent gap?|
|Synthesis, Interpretation||Design an imaginary organism (should not exist in real life) for a specific marine habitat of your choice. Think about the role of temperature, water movement, light, density, and food sources in defining the ideal characteristics for prospering in this environment. Also, think about areas where it would not be possible for your organism to live with these characteristics. Describe your organism.|
|Analysis, Debate, Point of View||Read the “Addicted to Oil” vignette. What are your thoughts on the question of the SUV boom? Should the government impose any type of regulation on these vehicles? Why or why not?|
|Warm Up Discussion Activity||Please share your thoughts on the following quote: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” (Maya Angelo)|
|Real World Implications, Clarifying||Is there any brand or company (do not use the brand examples in the article) who have used consumer feedback effectively and successfully to improve/enhance product attributes? How have they done it? Please share the source/news item or article that you have referred to for this discussion.|
|Reflection?||What have you found to be the most interesting topic in this course? Why?|
|Real World Implications, Reflective||Imagine the world 100 years from now. Select one issue we have discussed in this course and describe how it might be impacting future generations|
Examples of Different Types of Discussion Activities
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