Designing Effective Discussion Questions

A good question is both a question that your fellow students can answer and a question that requires analysis, synthesis, interpretation, and critical thinking in order to answer it. Your questions based on a particular passage should both encourage and challenge us to articulate and uncover meaning in the text. You don't necessarily have to have an answer to your question (indeed the most interesting questions often don't have a definitive answer), but you should think in advance about the kinds of answers your question may elicit in class.

Here are some types of questions that tend to facilitate thoughtful, sustained discussions: (Note: the sample questions are taken from a French Literature class! Please feel free to design your own sample questions appropriate to your discipline for your students.)

Here are some types of questions that you'll want to avoid and that can lead to dead ends in discussions: