Design good questions to ask

The trick in designing questions is to think of them like designing your learning goals for a lesson, or for the chapter that students are reading:

  • First, decide what are the ideas that you really want students to get out of that material.
  • Then, go through and ask questions that will reveal the kinds of uncertainties or common misconceptions they might have about that material.

Revealing and addressing misconceptions

For a question to be effective, it must address students' misconceptions. Learning Catalytics permits you to create free-response questions where you do not need to know students’ misconceptions a priori.

Aiming for the right level of difficulty

A question should also challenge students appropriately by being neither too easy, nor too hard. Ideally, somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of the students should answer the question correctly on their own, before discussion. For example, if you are writing a multiple choice question, you’ll want at least two the choices to be ones that students might, at their level, plausibly think are correct.

Even better, frame the question using one of the many open-ended question types, which requires students to produce, not just recall, the correct answer. This approach has the benefit of being easier to write (since you don't need to come up with plausible distractors), and it can provide useful data in the classroom by uncovering misconceptions that you didn't anticipate.

Building upon existing resources

However, it is also important to avoid “reinventing the wheel” when possible — Learning Catalytics also provides a searchable shared question library where instructors can share questions that they have successfully used in their classes. This way, you can prepare for class by combining your own questions with what you find to be the best questions that others have written. We encourage you to share questions that you have found particularly useful in class.