Asking Good Questions

Asking Good Questions

There is an art to creating good questions that accurately evaluate what your students have learned.

Here are some pages that offer detailed advice on how to construct well-crafted, and therefore effective, multiple choice, true/false and other types of questions.

And here are some bigger-picture things to think about when creating questions for in-class use.

  • Consider question structures and how they determine the ways students can respond.
  • Closed-end questions (true/false, yes/no, multiple choice) are useful for quickly checking comprehension.
  • Open-ended questions that encourage processing of information and application to new situations involve students in deeper learning.
  • Convergent questions have one acceptable right answer; students are required to regurgitate a certain response based on accepted wisdom.
  • Divergent questions have multiple possible answers and encourage creativity and insight.
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Examine whether the questions ask, “How much do you remember of what has been covered?” rather than “What can you do with what you have learned?”

Strategies for checking students’ background knowledge

  • Make a list of statements related to course content, including commonly held misconceptions. Have students mark them as true or false.
  • Use multiple choice format questions to determine familiarity with course topics.
    • Example: William of Ockham
    • a) Never heard of him
    • b) Heard the name, but don’t know anything about him
    • c) I have some idea of who he was, but I’m not really clear
    • d) Know all about him and can explain it to you
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