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How To: Write Questions that Stimulate Discussion

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I walked into the Koffee Kup Café, stepping gingerly past a golden retriever soaking up sun at the entrance.  I ordered a cup of black coffee and watched the waiter put down a dish of water and a bone for the dog.  When the waiter brought my coffee I asked, “Does your dog bite?”  He answered, “No”.  As I paid and left I reached down to pet the beautiful animal and he bit my hand.  I turned to the waiter and with some agitation said, “I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite!”  He responded, “He isn’t my dog.”  I had asked the wrong question.

 

Good questions are:

 

  • Open-ended
  • Clearly Stated
  • Relevant
  • Conversation Stimulators

 

Open-Ended

Good discussion questions are open-ended, leading to a variety of responses.  A member can answer "yes" or "no" without engaging their brain. An open-ended question compels members to think about the situation.  Note: When you say to a child, "How was school today?" they respond, "Fine." And you’re done.  But if you say, "Tell me something interesting that happened today at school," they have to focus on a specific incident, and you can get them talking.

 

Clearly Stated

Good discussion questions are clearly stated.  You can’t be lazy about creating a discussion question.  If a question is not working, revise it.  Note: Well focused questions are a good tool to keep responses on topic (send a private message to guide anyone who replied off topic).

 

Relevant

Good discussion questions are relevant/useful to your audience. They reflect member interest and invite them to think. Note: You can bring a thread to closure by summarizing the issues presented and resolved in the discussion, pinpointing especially interesting and informative responses, and close the discussion.

 

Conversation Stimulators

Good discussion questions are conversation stimulatorsNote: “How do you get to know your students’ interests outside of the classroom?” and “Why do you think teachers value Verizon Thinkfinity resources?” include all members responding with no wrong answer. I especially like Al Brown's comment to this post, "Remember, Questions are the Answers" - Al Browne

 

 

Some members new to Thinkfinity Community may prefer to “lurk”, or be non-contributory browsers. These members may be learning, but just doing it quietly. We try to ensure that members have a variety of activities, including low risk “ice breaker” discussions that will help the “lurkers” find their online voice.

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