Students are posed questions to discuss with the class. The questions serve as advanced organizers or scaffolds upon which the students construct new knowledge and tie in what they already know to emerging concepts. An asynchronous nature provides students the opportunity to consider questions more in depth.
Goals and Objectives
What will the students be able to do after doing what to what level. What are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes gained. Goals are included as a broad learning statement and objectives as specific items to be learned. These will vary depending on the questions that are asked. In general, discussion questions address knowledge presentation, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and in some cases application. All of Bloom’s Taxonomy levels can be addressed. Below are sample statements including bold action verbs that might be used in a discussion question objective statement.
- Students will acquire / demonstrate knowledge of a given topic X …
- Students will argue for a given viewpoint X …
- Students will differentiate among choices offered concerning X …
- Students will chart a course of action through X …
- Students will analyze options for X …
- Students will deduce question solutions about X ….
… during active participation in a discussion forum, both answering x questions and replying to y other posts on the topics assigned within an 80% achievement level as determined by the discussion rubric.
What must students already know before beginning this lesson? The answer to this question will vary depending on the needs of the lesson. In most cases, the students will need at least a beginning knowledge of the materials being discussed. Discussion questions usually occur after the students have begun reading new materials. The discussion helps to solidify ideas, present new perspectives, and address any misconceptions.
Materials and Resources
What needs to be prepared in advance by the teacher? The instructor needs to construct discussion questions prior to the given unit. There should also be activities or readings that coincide with these questions to provide students with any necessary knowledge to answer them or to begin formulating ideas.
What does the student need to bring to the lesson? To assess student learning or to aid in knowledge construction, discussion questions should be done after a student has already done any lesson readings or other information presentation or representations for the given knowledge unit. If the goal is to have the students reveal prior knowledge, discussion should occur before readings. Questions regarding student attitudes and beliefs may be done either before or after the students completes other learning materials.
Guiding Questions for this Activity
Is there a main question being answered by the lesson? For discussion questions, the simple answer is that the question being asked is the question being answered. However, usually, a large number of discussion questions are used, and each student may not even see all of the same questions. The questions may fit into categories of information. In such a case, the questioning should be implemented so that each student has an opportunity to address knowledge in each category.
Activity Outline and Procedure
How will the materials be presented? The outline includes generating a proper learning set in students such as lesson focus and purpose with connections to personal needs and interests. Following prerequisite knowledge attainment or during the process of constructing new knowledge, students are presented with questions. Each student is provided one or more questions to answer, and then must comment on the answers of several other students to questions in other knowledge domains for the given lesson. The initial answer time should be approximately 3 days, with 3 additional days for discussion. A summary post should be entered by the instructor to tie all of the knowledge together and fix any misconceptions.
One of the most difficult things for an instructor to do during a discussion question activity is to let the students discuss. The students need to be made aware of the expectations of their participation. The instructor needs to be careful not to post in such a way that the discussion is squelched.
Discussion questions are there for discussion. If they are too straightforward, such that there is clearly only one answer and only one way to get to that answer, then the only discussion is whether or not others understand, rather than a level of agreement with whys and why nots.
What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs? This lesson requires few if any accommodations. Most text to speech and speech to text programs can function within most asynchronous discussion tools. The bandwidth requirements are also low.
How much time would a typical online student require to complete such a lesson? Typically, a discussion question activity would be assigned at the beginning of a learning module, but the students would be expected to complete readings prior to completion. In a two step process, perhaps 2-4 days after readings are assigned, students would answer a selected number of questions. The students would then have about 3 days to continue the discussion posting a given number of replies.
Ideas for Activity Evaluation and Teacher Reflection
How did the students like the lesson? Can usually be determined through ‘noise’ generated by the student during the activity and within the course discussion in general.
How was student learning verified? A rubric can be used to assess the discussion after it is finished. Learning should also be verified for recall at a later time if necessary.