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Designing Trigger Questions

The ideas discussed in this presentation can be used to design questions for for classroom and online discussions, or for self-reflection.
by

JoAnn Gonzalez-Major

on 29 October 2012

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Transcript of Designing Trigger Questions

for Successful Discussions Creating Trigger Questions Multi-literacies Student Centered Promoting Interaction Support Student Learning The open-ended question: Ask for the hows and whys instead of the whats
The controversial question: where the instructor or discussion leader presents the unpopular stand that gets the students riled up
The “naivete” question: where the instructor or discussion leader asks the “dumb” question to get the students talking
The “synthesizer” question: where the instructor or discussion leader draws from related reading materials, asking students to determine what person A would have to say about person b because of c
The peer facilitator question: provides a nice transfer of power the students in a safe environment. When properly designed this is a very effective technique.

Keep in mind that there are no one right answer to these question types. Recommended Question Types Good questions create conversation without putting anyone on the spot. Some of the best discussion questions solicit input from everyone present. Good questions focus on one thing . Make sure the questions designed are focused and clear. Rather than asking a multi-layered question, it is best to ask just one simple question and wait for responses before asking the next thing. Well focused questions also serve as a tool to keep bringing the group back around to the topic under discussion. Good questions are open ended. They compel students to think about the facts of a text or situation. We utilize this principle in everyday life. Over dinner, if I ask my partner How was work today? I may get a response of fine. And that question would be done. But if I ask, Tell me something interesting that happened today at work, a specific incident has to be focused on, and a conversation can start. The same thing applies in group discussions. Good questions say what they mean. Good questions can be understood by everyone. Keep questions simple enough that everyone has a reasonable chance of knowing what you mean the first time that you say it. Good questions deal with student’s interests. Sometimes it is good to connect a question with the current interests and passions of the class. Good questions involve emotions. There is more to creating knowledge than intelligence, and there is more to discussing a topic than intellect. Instructors and/or discussion leaders need to involve people’s emotions, and questions are a great way to do that. Open-ended Open ended questions do not give learners answers to select from... Example Meyer states, and research shows, that the type of trigger question used at the start of a discussion ….

As an instructor, what is your experience with the response level and the level of critical thinking skills that students have applied to questions you’ve posed (either face to face or online)? Please do your best to provide an example.
How was the question formulated/presented?
What was the response of the students to the question?
What level of student participation did you have?
What role did you play within the discussion?
What would you/did you do differently in this situation? Controversial Controversial questions are designed to make learners take a stance on a topic Example Palloff and Pratt (2001) believe that "not all faculty are suited for the online environment" and that "faculty cannot be expected to know intuitively how to design and deliver an effective online course" because they "have not been exposed to techniques and methods needed to make online work successfully." Please reflect on the experience you have had learning how to use the LMS to enhance your course. Be prepared to address and share your answers to the following questions with your peers during the next class meeting (or via this discussion forum).
What is your opinion on Palloff and Pratt's statements?
How would you characterize your initial readyness for online teaching?
.... Naivete' This is the sort of "brass-tacks" question that a person trying to understand the basic basics of something will ask. To help the conversation along you may have to ask some additional probative questions. This type of questioning can educate because they can help students rethink how things are interconnected. Example I don't understand why President Polk was so eager to start a war with Mexico in 1846.
Why did he do that?
Why did he think that?
But surely Congress didn't just play along?
What did the generals think?
What did the Mexican government want?
What did the annexation of Texas have to do with it?
Ans so on.... Peer Facilitator Peer facilitator questions can be very effective if applied questions are used and the appropriate scaffolding is created. Example Activity Overview: Everyone will by the facilitator of a class discussion at least once during this course. A series of questions to be addressed during each of the weekly sessions has been posted to the course wiki....
Sample Question: What is Perelman getting at when he talks about "not questioning the question" and "Paradigm paralysis?" In the discussion forum, react to this idea and how it affects learning design. Do you have any examples from your experience?
Instructions: Facilitator please design the method that you will use to engage your peers and be prepared to start the dialog during the next session (classroom) or by no later than Sunday, midnight in the discussion forum (online or blended). Synthesizer The synthesizer question type draws from related materials asking students to build a case for a given stance regardless of how they personally feel about the stance Example Question: Should companies promote heath economic information to US employers?

Instructions: In the US a large portion of health insurance premiums for individuals under the age of 65 is paid for by employers. In an effort to manage premium increases, employers have formed healthcare employer coalitions and have implemented Health Enhancements, disease screening and similar programs. Should pharmaceutical companies allocate phase IV funding to support research and/or promotional activities with employers?
Team A should argue that employers are an important customer segment for whom limited research and promotional spending budgets should be allocated.
Team B should argue that limited research and promotional spend budgets should be allocated only to support activities directed toward patients, academic medical centers and managed markets customers.
Please support your responses with examples... Have students synthesize the prior week’s discussion postings Have students generate discussion or review questions, Students can submit questions to you via email or moderated discussion forum. Select a few of the questions and post them to an open discussion forum. You could even have the students who submitted the question be the moderator for the question. Assign a group to be the experts on a topic or section. Have them post a question for that week’s discussion and lead the discussion. Toward the end of the posting period, have the discussion leaders summarize and combine points for their peers. Have a student start the discussion on a topic or chapter. Have the student read an article that offers multiple perspectives on a course-relate topic. They then write a brief synopsis of the article to explain a perspective they support and why. This summary is posted to the discussion forum. Students then read the posting of at least two other students and respond in a collegial manner, with additional evidence from the article that supports or challenges the other students’ interpretations. If a student receives a challenge to a summary they should be able to defend their position, or concede their position. (Gaarrison, 2008) It is recommended that a clearly defined assessment rubric be used to grade this type of discussion. Suggested Activities Have students take sides on an issue and defend their position. Poll students in class or online on a particular question or issue. Then have students support their positions in the discussion forum. Post a number of questions relating to a chapter or unit of study. Have students work in small groups on these questions. Each group will then post their final responses to the discussion forum. Post a sample exam and have student collaborate on answering the questions. Post a weekly discussion question related to course readings prior to a class session. Use the comments from the online discussion to generate class discussion. Suggested Activities Provide a discussion forum for readings and assignments. Encourage students to post their questions “x” number of days before the next session. Use the student postings to develop lecture materials and resources. Post preview or review questions or concepts in a discussion forum. Have students submit a response in their own words. This allows you to assess the students level of understanding. Have students create reflective discussion summaries or “discussion audits” by posing one or more of the following questions: (Brookfield & Preskill, 2005)
What are the two most important ideas that emerged from this week’s discussion?
What remains unresolved or contentious about this topic?
What do you understand better as a result of this week’s discussion?
What key words or concept best captures our discussion this week?
What are some resources (e.g., websites, articles, books) that could be used to find further information/ideas about this topic? Suggested Activities For individual assignments, have students review postings from the discussion forum and outline the points and themes that were discussed. Select a few good examples and post these for the class Final Thoughts: Before adding asynchronous discussions to your courses you might want to consider how important discussions are and what role that should have in the learning experience. If an asynchronous discussion is integral to your course objectives, clearly communicate participation requirements and allocate a representative portion of the course grade to discussion participation. By
JoAnn Gonzalez-Major
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